TWO of Scotland’s cities have been named among the fastest-declining places in the UK.
A major new report places Dundee and Glasgow near the top of a new league table of “struggling” towns and cities.
Dundee was ranked seventh by researchers who considered a range of long-term economic factors including population change, unemployment rates, job creation and numbers of highly qualified workers.
Glasgow was placed 16th, the second worst ranking of any major UK city – those with populations over 500,000 – after Nottingham.
The top dozen places were dominated by post-industrial towns in the North of England. Rochdale, Burnley and Bolton headed the “most struggling” list. Dundee was just ahead of Hull and Grimsby.
At the other end of the scale, Aberdeen and Edinburgh were among the UK’s economic success stories.
Efforts to regenerate Dundee – once a byword for inner city decline – have gathered pace since city-born poet Don Paterson famously accused the council of “confusing urban regeneration with a post-apocalypse”.
Ken Guild, the leader of Dundee City Council, yesterday questioned the report’s findings, saying the city’s waterfront developments, together with the arrival of the forthcoming V&A museum, were a “prime example” of creating jobs.
“In recent weeks private enterprises have announced more than £70 million of investment in the city,” he said.
“They’ve got the message and no one else should be in any doubt that Dundee is open for business, the opportunities are there and that the council and its partners are doing everything possible to help people to maximise their potential and create jobs.”
Of the 74 towns and cities with populations over 100,000 people, Aberdeen was ranked 71st. Only Brighton, Cambridge and Milton Keynes performed better.
Edinburgh was placed 65th.
The report, titled Uneven growth: tackling city decline, was published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).
It assessed the relative performance of towns and cities over the past two decades.
However, the bulk of the research pre-dated the full impact of falling oil prices on the Aberdeen economy, where thousands of jobs have been axed in the past 12 months.
The city’s recent difficulties were underlined yesterday as City experts predicted a wave of insolvencies among North Sea firms.
The research group said the league table highlighted those towns and cities that were lagging significantly behind national levels of job creation.
The report identified the “urban renaissance” of London since the 1980s as a factor in the decline of other towns and cities.
“The movement of young adults to London and the south is damaging the growth of many provincial cities.
“This ‘brain drain’ is fuelling a significant divergence in skill levels,” the report said.
Its authors directed their conclusions at George Osborne, whose “Northern Powerhouse” initiative aims to breathe new life into northern cities by devolving powers and budgets.
Glasgow and Aberdeen have already agreed similar ‘City Deals’ in joint UK and Scottish government schemes.
In addition, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will this week set out plans to assign a share of income tax to Scotland’s 32 local councils in a bid to encourage economic growth.
Josh Stott, policy and research manager at JRF, said: “Britain has the potential to become a more prosperous country, with George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse playing a key role in rebalancing the economy.
“But it must reach all parts of the North to ensure prosperity is shared. “To rebalance the economy and ensure local growth provides opportunity for all households, the Treasury needs to ensure areas outside of core cities are not left behind.”
He added: “City leaders, with a new suite of powers at their disposal, must also show leadership to do their part to ensure growth and prosperity is shared by all.”
Andy Pike, co-author of the report and Professor of Local and Regional Development in the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies at Newcastle University, said: “Many cities in the North are growing but are failing to keep up with national trends.
“If the commitment to rebalancing in the UK is meaningful then greater policy attention and resources by central and local government needs to be focused upon the particular needs of these cities lagging behind.”