The long-awaited City Region Deal for the north-east has been announced – and could be finalised within days.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell said last night the “full details” of the investment would be revealed “shortly”.
His statement was delivered hours after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the Scottish Gov-ernment would fund the deal on a 50/50 basis with the UK Government.
Hundreds of millions of pounds will be pumped into the north-east over the next two decades to help the oil and gas industry maximise the North Sea’s remaining resources and to allow the economy to diversify.
The Press and Journal has learned the financial details of the deal are expected to be confirmed next week.
Mr Mundell said: “I am delighted that the Scottish Government has committed to join us in contributing funding, adding to that already pledged by the UK Government.
“We expect to be able to announce the full details of the Aberdeen City Deal shortly.
“This is an excellent example of the UK and Scottish governments working together for the benefit of Scotland.”
Asked what investment could be expected, he told the Press and Journal: “I don’t think it will disappoint the councils.”
He added: “UK City Deals are a UK Government initiative to target significant investment to boost local economic growth.
“We are committed to doing all we can to support the oil and gas sector and the wider north-east economy.”
Ms Sturgeon had written to Prime Minister David Cameron urging him to “accelerate” the finalisation of the north-east deal, saying it was vital the government sent a “strong and unequivocal signal” of support for the region.
She confirmed the Scottish Government would fund it on a 50/50 basis, as happened with Glasgow and the Clyde Valley.
It is understood neither Aberdeen City nor Aberdeenshire councils had been formally notified of Mr Mundell’s statement last night and as such could not treat it as an announcement.
But city council leader Jenny Laing welcomed the “positive, supportive comments” from Ms Sturgeon and Mr Mundell.
She said the local authority had been aware “a decision was imminent”, adding: “Given the statements made, we look forward to financial details of the contributions from both governments being announced at the earliest opportunity.”
She added: “Aberdeen has long been recognised as a key driver of the Scottish and UK economy, but the downturn that we are currently experiencing in the oil and gas industry has brought the need for intervention from all three levels of government into sharp focus.
“We believe the City Region Deal will help to secure the long-term future of this area and ensure Aberdeen continues to contribute substantially to UK Plc for decades to come.”
Aberdeenshire Council’s co-leader Martin Kitts-Hayes called the first minister’s comments a “very welcome development”.
He added: “The Aberdeen City Region Deal will play a vital role in supporting the economy of the north-east of Scotland and recognises the wider benefits that the oil and gas industry brings to the rest of the UK.”
Ms Sturgeon also revealed plans yesterday to visit Aberdeen next month for a series of meetings, including with senior executives at BP and the chamber of commerce.
North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said it had taken the shock of the company’s announcement on job cuts to “wake up” the Scottish Government to the seriousness of the crisis in the sector.
He also pointed to the Scottish Budget for 2016-17, which he said did not currently include any provision for the deal under either transport, environmental protection or water.
Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, added: “We need urgent action for the north-east and support for the City Region Deal is critical to that.”
As well as the City Region Deal, a multimillion-pound initiative to secure the north-east’s future was launched last month – with offshore industry doyen Sir Ian Wood backing the cause with £25million.
Opportunity North East will work to keep oil and gas flowing for as long as possible, while retaining the vast skills of its workers.
It will also boost other sectors – from food and drink to tourism – in an attempt to save tens of thousands of jobs and to “balance” the economy.
The scheme, which will play a role in the deal, also has £25million backing from Scottish Enterprise and other sources.