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Interview David Waite on Scottish Cities Alliance: focus on mutual benefits

The Scottish Cities Alliance is the collaboration of seven cities in Scotland, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) tasked with the collective aim of attracting external investment, stimulating economic activity and creating new jobs. It was launched in December 2011. David Waite, a researcher at the Scottish Cities Knowledge Centre, was a key-note speaker at the EUKN Policy Lab in Budapest.

Could you elaborate on the role of the Scottish Cities Knowledge Centre (SCKC)? 

Waite: ‘SCKC can be regarded as a critical friend of the Alliance, as it is independent and seeks to support the Alliance in evidence and knowledge production. SCKC reflects a collaboration between the University of St Andrews and the University of Glasgow - guided by a board with representation from multiple sectors - which aims to provide a learning space for cities policy in Scotland. SCKC also aims to bring together a wider network of researchers and practitioners engaged in urban policy issues.’


What has the Scottish Cities Alliance already accomplished?

Waite: ‘the Alliance has been in operation for less than 2 years, so activities and policies are still very much emerging. Joint investment approaches by the seven cities to attract private investors, leveraging economies of scale, is an example of Alliance activity. Indeed, I am aware that earlier this year the cities collectively went to London to promote to possible investors. Furthermore, and mindful of different sectoral strengths present within each city, the Alliance is looking into what infrastructure investments are required to strengthen the economic performance of the cities.’

How effective is the collaboration between bigger and smaller cities within the Alliance? 

Waite: ‘setting out a governance arrangement whereby politicians and policy officials from each city are represented alongside representatives from national government, is an important means of ensuring each city can participate in the Alliance process. Of course capacity is an ongoing challenge for all cities, as resources, particularly at the level of officials, are stretched for many of the participating Alliance members. Each city has the ability to opt in and opt out of various projects.’

What would you advise other cities that want to establish such a network? 

Waite: ‘it is important for the Alliance to focus on mutual interests and opportunities. Competitive tensions exist in various forms across the different cities, so it is essential to focus on where mutual benefits may be achieved. To do this, specific priorities must be clearly articulated. Do not collaborate for collaboration sake. If impact is to be achieved, the strategic objectives of the Alliance must align well with the strategic priorities of the cities.’

For more information about the Scottish Cities Alliance, please visit their website or contact David Waite directly.