Edinburgh’s internationally renowned status as a centre of history, culture and the arts and its high calibre workforce meant it performed exceptionally in Arcadis’ 2018 Sustainable Cities Index, which ranks 100 global cities. However, if it is to maintain this standing in the world economy it needs to address growing inequality in housing provision and tackle its already strained transport networks.
Arcadis’ 2018 Sustainable Cities Index explores the three pillars of sustainability – social (people – reflecting quality of life), environmental (planet - capturing green factors, including energy, pollution and emissions) and economic (profit - reflecting the business environment and economic health) to develop a holistic ranking of the world’s leading cities. The research also features new work on city archetypes and clusters aimed at explaining the implications of the rankings on the evolving relationship between the city and the citizen.
With two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a lively festival scene, Edinburgh scored top marks in the ‘People’ Index, beating competition from both London and Paris. The Scottish capital’s enviable position as a centre for tourism, low crime rate and status as an attractive place to live and work all combined to contribute to its success. The presence of a vibrant financial services sector, the largest in the UK outside of London, and growing life science community also helped to maintain its top ten status in the economic rankings of world cities.
Although it performed relatively well in the environmental scores (18/100), there is room for improvement. The city’s overcrowded road network, particularly at rush hour, and the lack of recreational space were cited as causes for concern. If Edinburgh is to retain its leading quality of life ranking, city leaders need to act now and embrace more active transport solutions, including improved cycling infrastructure and more pedestrian areas.
Graham Hill, City Executive, Scotland:
“Edinburgh’s cultural prowess, highly educated and healthy workforce, and low crime rate have propelled our city to the best place to live in the world. It is easy to see why Edinburgh ranks so highly but there is still room for improvement. We need to tackle housing affordability, income inequality and invest in a more sustainable transport network, but I am confident that with an ambitious 2050 City Vision underway, we have a fantastic opportunity to lead by example and re-shape the city for the better. With strong leadership and a collaborative approach to change, the future for Edinburgh should be very bright.”
Speaking on behalf of the Scottish Cities Alliance, Leader of City of Edinburgh Council, Councillor Adam McVey, said:
“This is great news for Scotland and testament to all of the hard work being done behind the scenes to make our cities sustainable and successful. My aim as Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council is to make our Capital one of the most inclusive, fair and successful cities in the world with sustainability at its heart. Clearly, we’re on the right track. We should all be proud that Edinburgh city sits comfortably within the top 5 cities in the world in this Index and particularly that is rated number 1 for People.
“Collaborative work through the Scottish Cities Alliance helps the whole country boost its sustainability. Scotland has a highly skilled, well-educated and adaptable workforce with five higher education institutes in the global top 200. Pair this with a high quality of life, where healthcare and higher education are free and crime is low and this demonstrates just some of the strengths which make the country so desirable. All this combines to bring a high quality of life for our residents, something which Arcadis has recognised in this report. That the data is collected from the perspective of citizens is particularly significant and we will continue build on our potential so Scotland’s cities remain at the forefront in the future.”
Liz McAreavey, Chief Executive at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, added:
“It is very good news that, once again, Edinburgh shows it’s standing as a world class city. It’s quality of life has for many years been a strong attraction for talent and inward investment, and this continues to provide a platform for business start-ups and success.
“There are many initiatives being developed in the city to address our long-term success as a modern, smart and sustainable city. Central Edinburgh Transformation and Low Emission Zones are a few examples of this forward looking city, seeking solutions for congestion and pollution through active travel and sustainable transport. With Data Driven Innovation and Skills a key focus of the City Region Deal, we can look forward to being at the forefront of how data will transform how we live, work and play.”
Overall London ranks higher in the three pillars. Other well-established European cities dominate the top of the overall ranking, making up 14 of the top 20 positions. They are joined by the advanced Asian cities of Singapore (in fourth place), Hong Kong (9th) and Seoul (13th) as well as the North American hubs of New York (14th) and San Francisco (16th).
The Index was compiled for Arcadis by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr). A copy of the report is available for download here.