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Sustainable city ambitions recognised in new Edinburgh by Numbers report

Posted: 13th April 2021
  • The majority of residents are concerned about the climate emergency as the city looks to find new and innovative ways to meet its net zero 2030 target
  • In 2018, the city was one of the most productive city economies of major cities in the UK*
  • Scotland’s Capital continued to attract people from around the world to live, work and study with migration being the main driver for population growth

Edinburgh residents believe that climate change is an immediate and urgent problem according to the latest Edinburgh By Numbers report produced by the City of Edinburgh Council.

The report showed that nearly three quarters (73%) of people across the Capital are very concerned about the climate emergency. The finding comes as the city recorded the fourth largest reduction in carbon dioxide emissions per population of UK major cities* between 2011 to 2018, and as the city works towards its ambitious target to reach net-zero emissions by 2030 – 15 years before Scotland’s national target.

The 14th annual edition of Edinburgh by Numbers provides a statistical overview of the Capital and how it compares to other UK cities in terms of People, Work, Economy, Tourism, Education, Environment, Property, Travel and Connectivity.

This year’s report, covering the time period 2009 to 2019/20, gives a snapshot of a pre-pandemic Edinburgh. It paints a comprehensive picture of the city’s landscape before the Covid-19 crisis hit the world while also bringing to life our key priorities – as laid out in our three-year business plan, ‘Our Future Council, Our Future City’ – ending poverty, becoming net zero and enhancing wellbeing.

Cllr Adam McVey, Council Leader, said: “These figures show the opportunities that Edinburgh offers to so many of our residents, and demonstrate the attraction for so many people to move here, work here, travel here and study here. Although we’ve had a huge disruption to all areas of our lives, our communities and the city more widely during the Covid-19 pandemic, looking at these figures, to pre pandemic times, should give us a sense of optimism about how we go forward. We will take stock of the last year and by using our strengths and the resilience we’ve gained, Edinburgh will build back a fairer, stronger and greener economy for the benefit of all our citizens.

“A greener, fairer recovery won’t be without its challenges but our approach to recovery will build a more sustainable future. Through the Edinburgh Guarantee, we’re expanding support to all ages getting back into fair work, education and training. We’re working with retail and hospitality businesses through our Forever Edinburgh campaign to help residents and visitors alike sustainably rediscover our beautiful city’s offer all year round. We’re welcoming back students to our world-class universities and colleges – once it is safe to do so – to continue their studies, building the skills we need for Edinburgh’s future and creating new technologies that are delivering such a bright economic future for the Capital with opportunities across our communities. We also look forward to growing centres of innovation that we invest in, such as the Edinburgh BioQuarter, that feed into the inclusive growth of our economy.”

Depute Council Leader, Cllr Cammy Day said: “Tackling inequality and sustainability issues is high on the list of our priorities. Before the pandemic, our economic strategy was focused on good growth, on tackling inequality, on well-being, and also on sustainability.

“The Edinburgh Poverty Commission, an independent group working alongside the council to alleviate poverty in the city, is throwing its full weight behind this and we are investing hundreds of millions of pounds in projects to support this agenda in areas including transport, infrastructure, electronics, pensions, etc.

“We’ll also continue to look at new ways to continue to meet our net zero carbon emissions targets through our City Mobility Plan and our ambitious 30-year housing building and capital investment programme delivering 20,000 affordable and energy efficient homes and carbon neutral neighbourhoods through developments such as the Granton Waterfront, Fountainbridge and Meadowbank.”

Active Travel

In line with the City Mobility Plan, reducing emissions through active travel was also a priority for those going to work. The report highlights that 37% of people took the bus or cycled, over three times the Scottish average. Edinburgh also reported the lowest percentage of journeys undertaken by car or taxi to work at 41.0%, compared to 66.4% of people in Scotland that used these as their main modes of travel to work in 2019.

However, there is still work to be done. Traffic congestion caused a 10mph average last mile speed in Edinburgh, one of the slowest in comparison to other UK cities. This impacted on journey times from traffic congestion during the peak morning and evening period, making it higher in Edinburgh than other UK cities.

Fair Work

The report highlights Edinburgh’s standing in the global economy and ongoing opportunities for entrepreneurs to get support, grow and succeed. In 2018, the city remained one of the most productive economies in the UK with GVA (Gross Value Added) per capita (£47,600) higher than any other major city outside London (£50,500)*.

In the 10 year period, from 2009-2019, Edinburgh saw a growth in new business, with start-ups consistently outstripping closures. More than two fifths (42.1%) of new businesses in the city are still trading after five years, a rate of survival higher than most other UK cities.

In 2019, one in ten (9.6%) people employed in Edinburgh worked in finance and insurance – twice the average across other UK cities – while 50,000 people are employed in the health industry, accounting for nearly 15% of all jobs in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh, relative to other UK cities*, also has a much higher employment share in accommodation and food services, information & communications, and less relative employment in transport and storage, construction and manufacturing.

Forever Edinburgh

The Capital has a renowned global reputation for its hospitality, heritage, culture, festivals, culinary experiences and so much more. From 2013 to 2019, the number of visits by overseas visitors to Edinburgh increased by nearly one million, with the defined summer period proving popular in 2019 with 41% overseas visitors arriving during July to September.

In line with the Edinburgh 2020 Tourism Strategy, driving visitors to visit throughout the year and seasons is key to building a more sustainable tourism sector for the city. While the traditional peak season increased by 42% – from 568,000 to 804,000 visits between 2013 and 2019 – the increase in the off-season period of October to March was greater – seeing an increase of 113% between January and March, and 143% between October and December. This will continue to be a focus for the Edinburgh 2030 Tourism Strategy and the push for short-term let legislation to properly control both the concentration and management of holiday lets, putting people and communities at the heart as Edinburgh builds back its thriving tourism sector.

Live and Study

Edinburgh continues to be a vibrant city attracting people from around the world to live, work and study here. In the ten years to 2019 Edinburgh’s population grew by 13.3% to 524,000 people, three times faster than Scotland (4.4%).

Migration (53,000) has been the main driver for population growth in Edinburgh from 2009 to 2019 –  five times higher than the net effect of births and deaths for the same 10-year period (10,390). The size of overseas migration to Edinburgh grew to 6,710 in 2018/19, after falling for two consecutive years in 2017/18 to 4,310, returning to levels seen in 2015/16 (6,790).

As reflected in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021, Scotland also has a reputation for excellence in education. In 2019 the number of students enrolled in an Edinburgh university was higher than the number of students in primary and secondary schools.  Four in five (81.6%) higher education students in Edinburgh were from the UK and, compared to other UK cities, Edinburgh has one of the highest proportions of higher education students per 1,000 population. Also, during 2019, three in five (62.7%) people in Edinburgh’s workforce in employment is educated to degree level or above.

Housing Overview

With more and more people coming to work and study in the Capital this puts increasing pressures on our housing stock with demand outstripping supply, pushing house prices to a premium. In September 2020, the average property price in Edinburgh was £280,154, higher than most other major UK cities outside London. This compared to the next Scottish city, Glasgow which recorded the average property price of £144,828 – around half of the average cost of Edinburgh.

To support this demand, in the five years to 2019 there were 11,732 new build home completions in Edinburgh. Since 2015, the annual number of new build starts in Edinburgh has exceeded 12,500 – more than double the number of new start builds between 2010 to 2014.

In 2019, a quarter (25%) of Edinburgh households lived in private rented accommodation while more than half (59%) own their own homes. Both are higher rates than recorded across Scotland as a whole and other Scottish cities respectively.

From 2017 to 2019 the number of purpose-built student rooms was 2,677, a slower pace than the previous period, with around 1,500 fewer rooms built than in 2014-2016 (5,036).

Business Comment

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