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Call to make Aberdeen ‘regional capital’ of north of Scotland

The boss of a north-east business organisation wants to see Aberdeen become a “regional capital” within five years.

Business improvement district Aberdeen Inspired is facing a crunch ballot, with businesses in the city centre set to go to the polls in June to vote on whether to retain it for another five years.

Last week the organisation set out its business plan for the 2021-2026 period if it is kept, with a focus on cafe culture, pedestrian-friendly spaces and the city’s Covid-19 recovery.

The plan was published in the wake of a series of setbacks for the city, including the high-profile closure of John Lewis – the region’s last remaining department store.

‘Destination’ for people from all over the north

However, chief executive Adrian Watson has revealed he wants to see Aberdeen become a “regional capital” of the north of Scotland.

That, he believes, would revitalise the city centre and lead to it becoming a “destination” for people from all over the north once again.

“The key thing is to re-establish Aberdeen as that regional capital city,” he said.

“In 2026, I’d like to think there is a thriving cafe culture and a liberal sprinkling of more pedestrian-friendly areas where people can enjoy the city centre and linger safely.

“We still want to see an accessible city centre where people can travel from the Shire with ease and come in and get out.

People coming in to enjoy the city

“However, we want it to be very much a destination of choice as opposed to people criss-crossing as they used to before the AWPR.

“We don’t want that traffic. What we want is people coming in to enjoy the city and spend money here, adding to the vibrancy and supporting our businesses.

“I want vacant units to be repurposed and for retail to still be here, in whatever shape or fashion, admirably supported by a great hospitality offering.

“Ideally more people will be living and working in the city centre and there will be more cultural events and gatherings to stimulate folk to come and spend time here.”

Mr Watson believes the next Scottish Government should create a “city centre minister”, with responsibility for the revival of the country’s key hubs.

And he called for key stakeholders in the city centre to adopt a “Team Aberdeen” approach.

Renew our support for city centres

“A fairer playing field would help for businesses and it’s a sector which needs support nationally,” he said.

“In the future I’d like to see a minister at Scottish Government level with the city centre portfolio.

“Lots has been said about towns and buying local, and there have been a lot of good initiatives.

“However, we are one of the three biggest cities in Scotland, and we now need to renew our support for city centres and it would help if there was a ministerial focus on that at national level.

“That would help the national government give support to the local public sector, and that in turn would inspire more confidence in the business sector as Aberdeen goes through a transition towards a greener economy.

A more vibrant city centre

“If all that clicks into place, with more people living and working here, we will have a more vibrant city centre with less vacant spaces.

“However, it’s going to take a collective effort and I’d like to see more of a ‘Team Aberdeen’ ethos. That means less people standing on the sidelines looking to talk the city centre down and more people getting behind it as best we possibly can.”

“We can do nothing about the past. Whoever made the decisions and whatever you think of those decisions, we have to look to the future. The only way we are going to make this happen for our great city centre is if we work together and get behind it.”

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