Bowling, where there are speculative plans to build a new industrial estate on a polluted site at the old Esso terminal on the banks of the Clyde.
By Bill Heaney
Glasgow City Region, of which West Dunbartonshire is a part, has been announced as one of two new Investment Zones in Scotland following a joint selection process by the Scottish and UK governments.
It has been promised that the two Investment Zones, in Glasgow City Region and the North East, will each be supported by up to £80 million in targeted investment, tax reliefs and other incentives over five years.
One proposed development at the Exxon owned tank farm at Bowling has received planning permission from West Dunbartonshire Council, but it still requires approval from the Scottish Government. And it still needs the projected capital investment.
Cash-starved West Dunbartonshire Council has committed to investing £millions in the Bowling project which is already over budget despite the fact that not a single brick has been laid or one sod cut on the oil-polluted site earmarked for an industrial estate where local politicians believe a fanciful 600 jobs will be created.
However, a number of unelected people locally doubt that the project will ever come to fruition and are sceptical about the amount of public money being invested in it.
Commenting on the announcement from the UK Government that Glasgow City Region has been successful in securing one of the two Investment Zones in Scotland, West Dunbartonshire Council Leader and Member of the Glasgow City Region Cabinet, Councillor Martin Rooney, pictured left, said: “This is fantastic news for West Dunbartonshire and I welcome the investment which will help us to grow our economy locally and provide a much-needed economic boost to our area.
“We have a great record of partnership working across the City Region, with strong political leaders who are working together for the collective benefit of our areas.
“While it’s too early to say what areas the Investment Zone would cover, West Dunbartonshire has a number of development sites which run parallel to the north of the River Clyde and there is real potential for West Dunbartonshire to become part of the Glasgow City Region Investment.
“This is a great opportunity for West Dunbartonshire and we will work with partners to build our ambitious vision of improving infrastructure, securing new business investment and the associated jobs it will bring.”
However, even Labour’s Jackie Baillie, pictured right, is circumspect about what will happen next.
She told The Democrat: “I am absolutely delighted that the UK Government has announced that the Glasgow City Region has been successful in securing one of the two Investment Zones in Scotland.
“This is fantastic news and, although specific areas have not yet been identified, the economic benefits for West Dunbartonshire, where there are a number of development sites, such as the Exxon site at Bowling, could be significant.”
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove said: “This is an historic milestone as we widen the opportunity and ambition of the Investment Zone programme to grow the economy across the whole of the United Kingdom.
“I am very appreciative of the constructive approach the First Minister and Deputy First Minister have shown in the meetings I have had with them in recent weeks. We all have a shared ambition to work together to see all parts of Scotland thrive and today’s agreement builds on our successful roll-out of Green Freeports in Scotland earlier this year.
“Both Aberdeen and Glasgow, and their surrounding areas, have been at the very heart of the UK’s economic success for generations. Shipbuilding on the Clyde. Oil and gas exploration in the North Sea and a leader in the renewable sector. Both responsible for exporting some of the world’s finest food and drink around the globe. Both playing home to some of the biggest financial service companies we have. We want to build on this proud present and past so that Aberdeen and Glasgow continue to make a massive contribution to the UK economy.”
Scottish Government Well-being Economy Secretary Neil Gray said: “This is a milestone in the delivery of Investment Zones in a way that enhances Scotland’s economy while aligning with our distinctive priorities.
“Scotland already has a strong track record in innovation and research and the Investment Zones can build on these strengths. They will form part of a joined up approach that draws on the expertise of our world-leading research, education and training institutions, dynamic business sector and skilled workforce and will enable local communities to benefit.
“A rigorous process has been followed in selecting Glasgow City Region and the North East and we look forward to working in partnership with them to create high quality jobs and ensure that fair work practices, including payment of the real Living Wage, are embedded in the Investment Zones from the outset.
“We will, of course, continue to invest in all of Scotland’s regions, for instance through Growth and City Region deals, to build on their strengths and stimulate jobs and growth.”
The Scottish SNP government and the UK Conservative government have an equal role in decision-making and overseeing delivery, although that could change after the next General Election when it comes up for review as it inevitably will.
Glasgow City Region and North East of Scotland were selected jointly by the UK Government and Scottish Government based on their research strengths, an assessment of economic need and potential, and a consideration of geographic spread.
A West Dunbartonshire Council spokesperson said: “The initiative is to be delivered by each area’s Regional Economic Partnership. Regional leaders, businesses and universities will take the lead in shaping regional plans, and discussions will now begin with both regions with government to develop detailed proposals.”