17 Oct 2018
Glasgow will still be a bigger city than Edinburgh in 20 years' time. It is Scotland’s largest and only truly metropolitan city, and contrary to a prediction by Edinburgh City Council chief executive Andrew Kerr it will remain so for the foreseeable future.
It’s not the first time Andrew has stated that Edinburgh will be the larger city, now setting 2032 as the date he believes the capital will overhaul Scotland’s industrial and commercial centre. While I admire the vigour with which he makes Edinburgh’s case, on this point he is well off target.
He argues that Edinburgh needs to prepare for a population of three-quarters of a million, despite a prediction from the National Records of Scotland that by 2041 Glasgow will have grown at 4% to 658,978 and Edinburgh by 7.7% to 583,135. Andrew challenges those assumptions saying that Edinburgh’s growth will be much quicker.
But even if he is correct and Edinburgh did indeed grow faster than predicted it would still be much the smaller city. A comparison between the City of Glasgow, the territory covered by Glasgow City Council, and the City of Edinburgh is meaningless. It’s well understood that Glasgow’s local authority boundary is artificially small and simply doesn’t reflect the city’s true population or its economic scale.
The Centre for Cities reports annually on the progress of urban centres across the UK and adjusts for artificial administrative boundaries to make its comparisons more consistent. The Centre for Cities uses instead what are called primary urban areas, basically the unbroken built up area of a city. On this measure Glasgow has a population of 992,000 against Edinburgh’s 507,200. Even Andrew Kerr’s most optimistic assumptions won't close that gap.
Edinburgh may not even close the gap on the core City of Glasgow. While Andrew is correct that forecasts for Edinburgh’s growth could be wrong, they could be wrong for Glasgow too. Our business base is up 25% in five years, and Glasgow’s employment numbers have grown faster than Edinburgh’s since 2008.
Glasgow’s industrial heart is re-awakening. This is the city that makes more satellites than any city in Europe. Using one of those satellites to check the night light view of Central Scotland would alone confirm Glasgow is twice the size of Edinburgh.