Creative Clyde welcomed - but with enterprise strategy reservations
Published by Anne Marie Hughes on Sat 09 Jun 12 @ 22:11
Glasgow Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the support for Pacific Quay in the Scottish Government's new Enterprise Areas strategy as a growing creative industries hub and a growth pole for the regeneration of the River Clyde.
Finance Secretary John Swinney announced four sectoral Enterprise Areas, designating Pacific Quay as a Manufacturing and Growth Sectors Enterprise Area.
Mr Swinney unveiled the plans in Irvine, where he also designated three sites in the town Enterprise Areas For Life Sciences. Locations in Moray, in the Highlands, Edinburgh and Midlothian were also given the same status.
He also revealed a Low Carbon/Renewables North Enterprise Area was being set up to cover sites in the Western Isles Highland and Orkney, and a similar area will be set up in the port areas of Dundee and Leith, Edinburgh.
While welcoming "Creative Clyde", Glasgow Chamber chief executive Stuart Patrick has some reservations about the strategy.
He said: "It's a typically cute move by the Scottish Government to reduce the political impact of having to choose four geographies. One assumes this has been agreed with the Treasury - or has deliberately not been agreed.
"Enterprise areas have a patchy track record and in the absence of details on the incentives and investments involved it's difficult to come to any initial conclusions on the likely impact. Displacement of existing activity is their major drawback but another problem has been the sustainability of impact after conclusion.
"If the area is not in a district close to natural labour market or industry asset it can run out of steam quite quickly. So the question is have all of these areas a good link to a complementary area of business or economic strength? Some of them appear to have that, but others may not.
"I'm also a bit sceptical of the sectoral approach for two reasons.
"Firstly do they intend that all investments in the area will be directly connected to the sector described - sometimes indirect connections could be just as important in the long term for example via patent lawyers.
"Secondly there is a risk that designating sectoral centres leads to neglect of other parts of the country where sectoral strengths are left underdeveloped. One example of this is that the Edinburgh Biotech Quarter has been the focus of virtually all of Scottish Enterprise's life sciences investment for years, and some of the key strengths in the West of Scotland have been neglected.
"Designating small sectoral geographies could overall become a bit false over time. I'd hate to think for example that Glasgow simply becomes viewed as the centre for creative industries as a result of these Enterprise Areas when it fundamentally depends on being successful in a handful of different industries such as engineering, renewables, life sciences and tourism.
"Our cities should be able to draw on their assets to focus on a variety of sectors. Glasgow with its expertise and centres of excellence simply must play a role in the national success for these key industries. I'm sure Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dundee would be equally concerned at being pigeon holed - although Edinburgh has done pretty well out of Mr Swinney's strategy!"