Scotland’s thriving cities are open for investment from US

Edinburgh’s skyline, with its historic castle, in the evening. The city has been cited for its FDI success
Edinburgh’s skyline, with its historic castle, in the evening. The city has been cited for its FDI success

With seven cities and an ambitious assignment of more than $9bn in investor-ready programs, Scotland is already punching above its weight when it comes to attracting business from the US

By Clare Ross

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Spanning the full breadth of sectors from fintech, Private Rented Sector and digital technology to life sciences, creative industries and food and drink, the country’s seven cities are open for business.

And with a Smart Cities program that spans these cities, they are on-track to be world-leading digital hubs, embracing new and emerging technologies.

The Scottish Cities Alliance is a unique collaboration of Scotland’s seven cities – Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth, and Stirling – and the Scottish Government, which is working to attract investment, stimulate economic activity and create business growth. Scotland’s cities offer huge potential to international investors and the Alliance has great ambitions for Scotland’s city economies which are high quality locations in which to do business.

The cities are working with the Scottish Government to support international investment and have a range of strong investment propositions, which feature in our online Pitch Book, showcasing $9.4bn of investor-ready opportunities in residential, hotel and leisure, office and industrial sectors. The projects are readily accessible to global investors. This selection highlights projects at differing stages of development and timeline and includes investor ready projects, projects coming through the pipeline and projects at very early stages of development. Working with partners in public and private sector, a further stream of projects will be continuously identified to further the development of the portfolio of propositions to take to markets.

Scotland has long punched above its weight in attracting inward investment and the country’s seven cities are driving this growth. The EY Attractiveness Survey names Scotland the most attractive place in the UK to invest outside London.

Chair of the Scottish Cities Alliance, Andrew Burns
Chair of the Scottish
Cities Alliance,
Andrew Burns

Chair of the Scottish Cities Alliance, Andrew Burns, said: “Together Scotland’s cities and their regions have a strong story to tell, and collaboratively we are making a significant impact in a very competitive investor environment which highlights the huge rewards of Scotland’s cities working together.

“The Alliance has brought in more than $125m to the Scottish economy, and we hope to build on this with the Scottish Cities Alliance’s Pitch Book detailing billions of dollars worth of potential investments across the seven Scottish cities.

“Our commitment to working in partnership is cemented by this success and I am sure that, thanks to our ongoing collaboration, Scotland’s cities will continue to be seen as a global investor’s destination of choice.”

Seven reasons to get serious about business

Aberdeen’s economic transformation is continuing in 2017-18, boosted by the announcement of a City Region Deal which will unlock some $1bn of investment in the city’s harbor and city center alongside the creation of the UK’s new $225m Oil and Gas Technology Centre. Several key projects will complete in 2017, including the Marischal Square development, the city’s Art Gallery and the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, which will significantly enhance traffic flows around the city region.

Union Street in Aberdeen, Europe’s oil and gas capital, lights the path to investment opportunity
Union Street in Aberdeen, Europe’s oil and gas capital, lights the path to investment opportunity

The City Council has recently become the first council in Scotland to secure investment through a stock-market issued Bond, which has raised $462m for investment in the city’s transport, cultural and housing infrastructure, including the new Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre. An Investment Plan for the city is to be launched in the spring of 2017 and this will set out how Aberdeen will showcase its assets in the future. These include high levels of entrepreneurship, two thriving universities with over 30,000 students, high quality of life scores and great access to the rest of the UK and major European hubs.

The city has experienced a rush of private sector investment in the $1.25bn Dundee Waterfront. Leading UK development and regeneration company, Our Enterprise, which has developed a pioneering ‘social legacy’ business model, is investing $31m to build 91 apartments and create a design and innovation quarter aimed at retaining the city’s graduates on Site 2.

A view of the Dundee Waterfront Project, which will incorporate accommodation, design and innovation
A view of the Dundee Waterfront Project, which will incorporate accommodation, design and innovation

Robertson a leading construction and infrastructure company is the developer on Site 6 to build flats, premium office space and a hotel on a site adjacent to the new V&A Museum of Design Dundee. Forth Ports is investing $12.5m in a project that will enable Dundee Port to capitalize on the expansion in renewables and decommissioning work from the North Sea. The different sites can be viewed at

Award winning Edinburgh is The European magazine’s ‘European FDI City of the Year’ 2015/16 and Financial Times fDi Magazine’s ‘Best FDI Global Strategy’ 2016/17 for its robust economic performance and investment promotion reach. Real estate has been underpinned by a resilient economic and business base which has driven rental growth and resulted in multiple major office transactions. Flagship office developments are under construction and have attracted significant pre-lets. The booming tech sector is a leading source of office demand. Hotel occupancy rates are among the highest in Europe – and the residential and student accommodation sectors are also increasingly attractive to investors. The appeal of a labor pool that includes more than 150,000 graduates and air links to over 100 destinations allows the city to claim the attributes of a global center while retaining outstanding quality of life and character.

Festival fireworks illuminate Scotland’s capital in August
Festival fireworks illuminate Scotland’s capital in August

Last year’s August festival season drew 2,444 artists from 36 nations, attracting an audience of $5.6m and generating over $390m for the Scottish economy.

Widely recognized as Scotland’s economic and property powerhouse, Glasgow offers investors and occupiers highly competitive property costs, prime rents and attractive yields. Second only to London’s West End, the retail offer in Glasgow is one of the many reasons why Glasgow’s leisure tourism sector is thriving and with some of the best sports and events infrastructure in the world, the provision of more hotel bedrooms is a priority. More than 133,000 students from 135 countries attend the city’s 5 higher education institutions and 3 colleges, generating one of the most highly skilled and flexible workforces in Europe with the best graduate retention rate in Scotland.

Glasgow is creating jobs in key technical sectors
Glasgow is creating jobs in key technical sectors

Building on this, Glasgow’s new Economic Development Strategy aims to create an additional 50,000 jobs over the next seven years across a range of key growth sectors including life sciences and digital technology which has emerged as one of the city’s economic heavyweights generating $737m Digital GVA (average 2013-2015). Using the $1.4bn City Region City Deal, Glasgow is transforming its physical environment through enabling infrastructure to support further development, a growing population and a resilient economy.

The city of Inverness and the wider Highland region offers a unique and stunning environment in which to live, work, study and visit and it is a globally recognized tourist destination. UK and Scottish Government funding, together with investment by the City Council and public partners, will deliver a step change in digital connectivity, digital healthcare, skills, business development and infrastructure in a City-Region Deal which was signed in March 2016. It is estimated that the $394m city-region deal investment will lever up to $1.25bn of further investment in the economy of the Highlands.

Inverness Campus for business and research
Inverness Campus for business and research

Opportunities for the growth of the region will be greatly enhanced by improved air links with London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schipol and several major infrastructure projects.

Further projects include a new University of the Highlands and Islands School of Health, Social Care and Life Sciences on the recently opened Inverness Campus, and Science Skills Academy Hubs which operate in five locations across the Highlands.


Perth, a dynamic city and one of the fastest growing in Scotland, is home to the largest campus of the University of the Highlands and Islands
Perth, a dynamic city and one of the fastest growing in Scotland, is home to the largest campus of the University of the Highlands and Islands

Perth is a dynamic city with access to outstanding rural hinterland and, with projected growth of 25% by 2030, is one of the fastest growing in Scotland. The city is at the core of the transport network and is home to the largest campus of the University of the Highlands & Islands and several corporate headquarters, including energy giant SSE.

With significant strengths in food and drink, tourism and clean technology, Perth is primed for significant international investment opportunities, supported by the council’s tailored “open for business” approach. Through its ambitious Perth City Plan linking to the new Tay Cities Deal, an investment of $625m in strategic infrastructure has already started to unlock industrial, logistics, office and housing opportunities.

Situated in the heart of Scotland, with excellent transport links to major cities and rural areas, Stirling is a perfect location for business growth in the UK.

With a variety of industrial spaces available and office property sale prices less than quarter that of the national average, Stirling has competitive rates for both new and existing businesses. Thanks to a college with excellent links to local employers and a university renowned for its world-class research, there is also a large trained workforce available in the area.

As part of a City Deal project, a Digital Hub has been developed by a cross-sector partnership that includes the UK’s largest tech incubator – CodeBase – alongside Stirling Council, the University of Stirling, Forth Valley College and several players from the region’s business community. CodeBase, who are also Europe’s fastest growing tech incubator, will help drive Stirling’s ambition to rapidly grow its digital technology sector.

This will place the city at the forefront of Scotland’s digital skills push and leading to significant job creation.

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