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Scottish Government seeks more Westminster cash to support Aberdeen

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

The Scottish Government will continue to press the UK Government to offer more financial support to Scotland’s north east, after “inviting” David Cameron to match its own £379 million contribution, the First Minister has said.

Nicola Sturgeon also told MSPs she will visit Aberdeen on Monday to announce further commitments to support the oil and gas industry.

It was announced earlier on Thursday that more than £500 million is to be invested in the region after Holyrood pledged additional cash on top of a city deal which is being jointly funded with Westminster.

The £250 million UK City Deal for Aberdeen includes plans to boost innovation in the crucial North Sea oil and gas sector, which has been hit hard by plummeting prices.

The package was unveiled ahead of a visit by David Cameron, who will meet key industry figures to find out more about the challenges the area is facing.

The Scottish Government is also pledging £254 million from future budgets over five to 10 years to improve the area’s infrastructure.

Ms Sturgeon revealed during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood that Scotland’s Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown had asked the UK Government to match the extra funding.

She was asked by SNP backbencher Kevin Stewart if she “shared his view that Aberdeen deserved more than £125 million from the UK Government”, given the tax revenues that have gone to the Treasury from the oil and gas sector.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I think Kevin Stewart makes a very, very good point indeed, but nevertheless today I think is a good day for the north-east of Scotland.

“I welcome the city deal agreement which is seeing both the Scottish and UK government both commit £125 million to support infrastructure and innovation in the north east, however I do know
the investment Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire asked for was more significant than that.

“That is why we have taken the decision as the Scottish Government to today confirm £254 million of additional support for key infrastructure in the north east.

“The Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure did invite the UK Government to match that additional commitment, and we will continue to discuss with them increasing their contribution.”

She added: “I will make further commitments to support the industry when I visit Aberdeen on Monday.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson told the First Minister: “I am delighted to see the Scottish Government try to out-do the UK Government today.”

She added: “I think it is important that our two governments actually work together, and I think this is exactly the kind of partnership most people in Scotland want to see.”

The bulk of the extra cash provided by the Scottish Government will go on improving rail connections between the city and the central belt, but there will also be £20 million of funding for housing in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, along with £10 million to boost broadband services.

Mr Brown and Scottish Secretary David Mundell signed the city deal agreement on Thursday.

Mr Mundell said: “Oil and gas is a crucial sector, not just for the north-east of Scotland but for the whole of the UK.

“We need action which will help in the short, medium and long terms – building a bridge to the future of the North Sea; helping the UK’s oil and gas industry to export its world-class
expertise around the globe; and encouraging diversification of the economy to create new opportunities in other sectors too.

“This UK City Deal will help deliver that and demonstrates our commitment to this very important part of Britain’s economy. We have seen in Glasgow the extra jobs and growth that this kind of deal can bring, and I want to see the same achieved in and around Aberdeen.”

Mr Cameron insisted in the Commons on Wednesday that a “bridge to the future“ can be built for all those involved in the North Sea, and told MPs his visit to Aberdeen would see him outlining plans about what can be done to help the “vital industry at this vital time”.

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