An oft-repeated argument for Scottish independence has been that, in the first quarter of 2014, Scotland’s economy outpaced the UK’s. That’s true, even if you take oil and gas extraction out of the equation. There might be some turmoil during the transition but, in the long term, it seems, Scotland’s economy might do just fine on its own.
At city level, it is, for the most part, a similar story: look at economic output per head in the UK’s major cities, and you’ll find Edinburgh and oil-rich Aberdeen vying for second place. (Which comes out on top depends in part on exactly which measure you look at.)
Statistics suggest that these two cities’ economies will expand further in coming years. Both are in the top 10 UK cities for job creation, and between 2010 and 2012 added around 5,000 and 23,000 new private sector jobs respectively. In 2012, Aberdeen was second only to London in terms of business start-ups, too, with 57.1 new businesses per 1,000 Aberdonians.
Things aren’t so bright in Glasgow, sadly. This chart showing the change in total GDP in the three largest Scottish cities since the turn of the century. (We’ve used 2000 figures as an index.)
Real GDP growth, using 2000 as an index; data from 2012 onwards is a prediction. Source: CityMetric Intelligence.
While Aberdeen and Edinburgh were already rebounding from financial crash-related dips by 2010, Glasgow is still feeling the aftershocks: between 2010 and 2012, as the other two cities were creating private sector jobs, Glasgow lost 7,800 of them.
All that said, the sheer size of Glasgow’s population – it’s roughly twice the size of Edinburgh, and four times the size of Aberdeen – means it still has the largest GDP overall:
In May, Glasgow joined the seven largest UK cities outside London – the so-called “Core Cities” – in calling for greater devolution to urban areas, as opposed to regions. At the time, Gordon Matheson, leader of the city council, said that Glasgow has more in common with other large UK cities than it does with the rest of Scotland:
“The issues they face from an over-dominant London economy and government centralism are the same that Glasgow faces. The answer is to radically devolve power and resources to city regions across Britain.”
We noted last week that independence could actually make devolution to Glasgow and Edinburgh less likely. So while the polls show Glasgow leaning towards “Yes”, the city authorities may be hoping for a No vote, after all.
This article is from the CityMetric archive: some formatting and images may not be present.