For the last 13 years it has been voted as the best place to live in the UK, and every year millions of visitors arrive, attracted by the city’s history, shopping and vibrant cultural scene including the internationally renowned festival season.
I’m confident that Edinburgh will continue to thrive in the years to come, but I believe it is in all of our interests to stay in the UK when we get our chance to vote in the Independence Referendum on 18th September 2014.
Edinburgh is home to the largest financial services sector outside of London generating £8.8bn a year for the economy and accounting for around 7% of all jobs in Scotland. The firms that base themselves in Edinburgh value our skilled workforce and recognise the advantages of operating within the same legal framework as the City in London. They recognise the stability that the UK provides for financial services and there can be no guarantee that this will remain if our ties are severed and we lose control of the pound or join the Euro.
Our universities are renowned across the world as leaders in scientific research and this has been supported by the UK. Overall, Scottish universities receive 15% of the UK’s research funding – almost double our share of the population. However, there is doubt that this funding would be sustainable under independence.
Similarly, as part of the UK we know that the pensions of one million Scots are guaranteed. To date, the Scottish Government’s pledges have been light on detail, but in private even they have concerns about affordability.
Hard as it may be to believe, there is still a full year to go before we cast our votes. The campaigns on each side officially launched well over a year ago and there are legitimate concerns that the referendum is drowning out all other debate.
Scotland faces wide ranging challenges from rebuilding our economy, protecting the most vulnerable in our communities from Coalition cuts like the bedroom tax and ensuring that we get Scots back into work. The referendum, irrespective of the result, will not in and of itself solve these problems and we should be taking action now to tackle them. Disappointingly, however, the Scottish Government is pressing ahead with its Budget for Independence at the expense of the priorities of ordinary people – Scotland is on pause.
In Edinburgh we currently have the best of both worlds with the security of the UK behind us and a successful, devolved Scottish Parliament that has improved the lives of Scots.
We should build on this success not just by strengthening our Parliament, but by devolving further powers to local councils and communities. We should reverse the SNP’s centralisation and devolve power to local and community level.
Labour’s land reform agenda empowered our rural communities a decade ago we now need to give those of us who live in urban Scotland the chance to make better use of our land and buildings to improve the quality of life and resilience of our communities.