Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Millennium Commission (FCS 2)

  Thank you for your letter of 26 October regarding the planned Scottish Committee inquiry. I will be happy to attend the oral evidence session on 3 December.

  I was asked to produce a written memorandum on the job creation potential of the canal. This is not something on which the Commission can comment with authority and I have restricted my comments, in the attached note, to a short account of the Millennium Project and an outline of the background the decisions of the Millennium Commission to fund it. You will note that while the potential regenerative benefits of the project were clearly grasped by the Commissioners, they were not the sole reason for the Commission's decision to offer funding.

  The project reflects, in this respect, the Commission's wider grant portfolio. We are not a regeneration agency—the statutory purpose of the Millennium Commission is to fund, or assist in the funding, of projects to mark the passing of the second millennium and the arrival of the third. Job creation and economic regeneration are not therefore our primary purpose. Nonetheless, we have identified significant economic impacts deriving from our funding programmes, which were outlined in our recent Economic Impact Assessment, a copy of which I also attach. The Millennium Link is cited as a case study on page 40.[4]

Total Project cost: £78,814,457
Millennium Commission Grant awarded£32,214,310


  A project to re-open to navigation 110 kms of the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals, thus linking not only Scotland's major east and west coast rivers but also the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. This is being achieved by removing obstacles such as in filled sections and low headroom bridges, refurbishing locks and building a transfer mechanism—the Falkirk Wheel—to allow boats to pass between the two canals. The canals traverse the most heavily populated areas of Scotland stretching between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

  The Project was offered grant in February 1997, having originally been identified as a suitable project in June 1996. The route of the canal was amended in late 1996 to cover a shortfall in co-funding, caused by a reduction in the level of support from Scottish Enterprise.

  The Commission noted in considering the application in June 1996 that it was estimated that approximately 4,000 jobs could be created over 4-5 years in the development along the canal corridor. Commissioners were attracted by the prospect of the derelict and disconnected canals being reopened. They were obviously supportive of the potential regeneration and the creation of new jobs, but were particularly interested in supporting the creation of a significant millennial feature in the Falkirk Wheel.

Identified Economic Impacts

  The project was examined as part of the Commission's Economic Impact Assessment of its Programmes, published in 2001. The study identified the project as having had an impact on the regeneration of surrounding areas, in some cases having acted as a catalyst for surrounding regeneration, and noted that it had redeveloped disused and contaminated land. It stated that the project had the potential to generate significant follow-on investment, although added that only time would tell whether this potential was realised.

  The Study also stated that the millennium project had enabled the linking together of several discrete development sites which were unlikely to have attracted the same level of interest if considered separately. The project was felt to have the potential to create a line of regeneration, along the length of the canal, on discrete sites.

Mike O'Connor CBE

13 November 2001

4   Available from Millennium Commission. Back

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