Dundee MP Stewart Hosie has admitted the Covid-19 crisis may cause a further delay in Tay Cities Deal projects coming to fruition.
Mr Hosie joined the Tele for a video interview with his SNP colleague, Dundee City Council leader John Alexander.
Mr Alexander has consistently said the £300 million of public money, which will be used by the councils in Dundee, Perth and Kinross, Angus, and Fife, should be handed over now.
The money will be used to encourage skills development and progress infrastructure such as roads, rail links, buildings and communications networks.
Mr Alexander said he and the other three council leaders were “collectively seeking an urgent video meeting with minsters from both the UK and Scottish governments, to have a frank and honest conversation about where we are and how we take that forward”.
When asked what stage he thought the Tay Cities Deal was at, however, Dundee City East MP Mr Hosie conceded that the Covid-19 crisis may require a reassessment of the investments which will be made and said the councils involved “were not be in a position to make the decisions yet” due to coronavirus.
He said: “Where we think we’re going with the strategic investments have all been outlined by and large. As to what sort of hiatus this Covid crisis will deliver; we can’t know that yet.
“I suspect at some point, once the lockdown is over and investment and building can start again, then it will be for the councils to come together again and say, ‘Right, were the strategic investment plans we thought were right two years ago? Are they still the right ones, can we just press the button and carry on with them, or, in hindsight, given this crisis and the damage it may do, are there changes which we may wish to make?’.
“But I don’t think any of the local authorities are in a position to take that decision yet, because we don’t know what the legacy of this crisis will be. And we don’t yet know what changes might make sense.”
When asked if Mr Hosie’s comments contradicted the council leader’s point about the money being paid to the region as quickly as possible, Mr Alexander said: “My position is that I want to see that deal signed. We’ve got an agreement in place. We’ve set out all the business cases against them and, again, I would make the point that Stewart has just made.
“In terms of the envelope, and this was my point that I was making very firmly, I think last week or perhaps the week before; we’re in agreement that there is £300m of investment between both governments to come to the region; we’re in agreement on the broad principles of how that will be deployed.
“My ask is, ‘Give us the money and let us get on with the job of planning how that investment is deployed’.
“So for me it’s about handing that big, fat cheque over to the four local authorities to start creating – or planning for the creation – of jobs and investment going forward.
“Now, Stewart is absolutely right; some of those projects we may well look at with a new hindsight I suppose, and make sure they are or remain fit-for-purpose, or whether there’s changes.
“But that doesn’t change the position that I set out, which is (that) I believe the UK Government and Scottish Government need to commit to that funding and give us the sign off, to be able to take forward that work now.
“So I suppose my call is; let’s get something moving, rather than sitting waiting, when we’ve already got an agreement in place.”
Councillor Alexander added: “For me it’s not necessarily the deployment of that money in a practical sense, for example, on construction. But, it’s the planning that we can be getting on with, to make sure that we can take that forward in earnest, as quickly as we possibly can.
“The later we sign the deal, the longer that planning takes and then the longer it takes to get on site and start construction. So that’s why I’m keen on getting this moving quickly.
“I also think it’s going to be critical in terms of the recovery of the city going forward, in trying to create and generate some investment and jobs.
“So, within the matter of the next month, I hope we have some form of conclusion that means that we can start planning in earnest for how we deliver the projects contained within that ambitious programme.”