12. What recent progress has been made on the proposed Inverness city region deal. (902674)
The Government, along with the Scottish Government, are working with Highland Council to identify the opportunities for an Inverness and Highland city region deal. The discussions are ongoing. They are positive and constructive. I hope they will lead to the outcome that I am sure the hon. Gentleman hopes for. He is absolutely right to raise this important issue. City deals can be a great driver for growth; they can help us realise economic potential, and that is what we want to see.
Highland Council has submitted a detailed and innovative plan for city deal investment, with the support of the Scottish Government. Will the Minister commit to advancing discussions, and will he indicate a timescale for finalising the process to allow the deal to get under way?
Discussions are already under way. Officials met local representatives on 2 December and will continue to work through the plans to ensure that they are robust, that they deliver what is needed, that they meet the requirements that we place on such deals and that they have the support they need to continue. We wish to see them progress positively. That is the strongest assurance I can give the hon. Gentleman at this time, because of course those things need to be done properly and thoroughly before plans are taken forward.