THERE is no denying the bitter disappointment felt by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce members when the Clyde Green Freeport proposal was rejected by both UK and Scottish governments.

The decision to award Green Freeport status to bids exclusively from the east coast – one of which is located in one of the UK’s most economically successful regions – has left those of us with a direct interest in the West of Scotland somewhat puzzled.

If the UK Government’s Levelling Up strategy really amounts to anything, then a credible plan such as Clyde’s deserves more than a polite "thank you for your interest". After all, a plan which would have created upwards of 30,000 jobs and attracted over £2 billion in business investment in a region containing well more than half of Scotland’s most deprived areas is surely worth supporting, is it not?

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We also learnt last week that Glasgow City Council’s recent bids to the UK Government’s second round of Levelling Up Funding were an unexpected waste of senior officer time. It transpires that successful authorities from round one were automatically ruled out for round two, without that being explicitly clear in the application process. Councils are stretched enough already without fruitless exercises carelessly created in Whitehall.

City council leader Susan Aitken was therefore perfectly justified in asking for an urgent conversation with both Michael Gove and John Swinney, and she was not alone in expressing doubts about these recent experiences.

West Midlands Conservative mayor Andy Street said bluntly that "Whitehall’s bidding and begging-bowl culture is broken". Jonathan Carr-West from the Local Government Information Unit also ripped in to a "crazy" system asking councils to put substantial time and energy into applying for funds knowing the majority will be unsuccessful.

Nor should the Scottish Government be exempt from criticism. The Clyde Green Freeport bid offered an opportunity to bring new life to the River Clyde, with Greenock in particular playing a full role. It is just over three years since the Scottish Government announced the Clyde Mission as a major regeneration initiative. Since that day I am aware of only one further announcement distributing around £10m – also on a competitive bidding basis – to various small projects. The initiative now seems to have disappeared inside the civil service.

In the Chancellor’s speech last Friday, he repeated a commitment to the development of investment zones "focused on our research strengths and executed in partnership with local government". There will be "advantageous fiscal treatment to attract new investment" with "each one focused in high-potential but under-performing areas". How important these zones will be depends on what this "fiscal treatment" involves.

The process to decide where these will go is soon to begin and I hope it’s not another exercise in competitive bidding. If it is, I would not be surprised if councils felt tempted not to participate. They would have my sympathy.

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Let me suggest an alternative: Build on the data-backed decisions you have already made. Last year, for example, the UK Government designated the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Glasgow as Innovation Accelerators, each sharing in a pot of £100m to increase the rate of business adoption of university research. Rather than a full-scale competitive bidding process, each city essentially has £33m to allocate among local research projects they know will benefit.

Designating at least one investment zone in the Glasgow City Region would add extra impetus to that work. Glasgow already has three innovation districts, each led by a university, supported by local government and devoted to one of the UK’s growth industries. All three sit close to an area that ranks high in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.

So, Chancellor, as you sit down to review the process your officials suggest, please ask how these zones expand on commitments you have already made, how many of the most disadvantaged communities are involved and how much influence the local authorities will have in their final design.

Stuart Patrick is chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce