13 Jul 2017
Transforming Dundee, Scotland: An evening with Mike Galloway

How did a small Scottish city in decline transform itself into a cultural hub and the United Kingdom’s first UNESCO City of Design?

In Australia, as part of the Committee for Geelong “Winning from Second” International Speaker Series, Galloway spoke about Dundee’s collaborative transformation.

“The city’s achievements are due to its partnerships with all levels of government, across sectors and within city government”, said the brain behind Dundee’s rejuvenation, the Executive Director of City Development, Mike Galloway from Dundee City Council.

Speaking to city planners, urban designers, academics, and city, state government and private sector professionals at RMIT University, in Melbourne, Galloway explained the social and economic changes the city faced.

Once a thriving industrial city, the City of Dundee in Scotland suffered continuous economic decline in the last decades of the 20th Century, until in the late 1990s the Scottish Government decided to undertake a review of its cities.

The conclusion was that cities were the future engines of the national economy and needed to be prioritised in terms of investment.

A growth fund was established and the Dundee City Council decided to focus its resources on one single transformation project – the Waterfront Project – to drive the city’s vision to create jobs, improve quality of life and foster social inclusion.

“The first impression of a city is in the first five minutes”, Galloway told his audience, hence the Dundee Waterfront transformation.

The Waterfront Project became a catalyst for change in Dundee and was reinforced with the development of the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A).

Together with the physical transformation that these two projects carry, the education, creative and life sciences industries have become the focal drivers for the city’s development.

“Culture and creativity is also a vital aspect for a city”, said Galloway.

V&A, an $80million development, is both a tourism and business development project bringing in half a million new visitors per year.

With the new development and its cultural facilities changing the image of the city, naturally the city needed a better gateway for visitors to come in which led to a huge investment in redeveloping the Old Dundee Railway Station.

“We’ve been on a journey over the last couple of decades”, explained Galloway.

This journey and Dundee’s partnership vision was recognised and used as a model to other ‘second cities’ in the “Winning from Second: What Geelong can learn from other International Second Cities” research project conducted by the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme and RMIT University for the Committee for Geelong (CfG) and supported by the Commonwealth Bank.

For Galloway the fast-changing face of Dundee happened because of its sustained partnership between the City Council, the public sector, third sector and private sector, which has consequently propelled Dundee’s international reputation as a centre of creativity and cultural industries.

“Having a joined-up approach in the city, key organisations being connected to each other and having clear, decisive, partnerships, this is highly appealing to investors”, explained Galloway.

And more major urban developments and transformations followed: the waste infill site near Dundee’s shoreline and river is now an airport – five minutes away from the city centre; nature parks were created, new facilities for new apartments, and the utilisation of shipping containers for start-up businesses.

In the pipeline now are offshore wind farms and oil and gas decommissioning, with about 100 rigs needing to be decommissioned, said Galloway.

Dundee wants to be the capital of this decommissioning, a knowledge base and centre of excellence for decommissioning, Galloway explained.

“In Dundee we are  influencing others to be collaborators, by walking the walk and modelling how it’s done”, says Galloway.

Dundee’s partnered approach to their urban transformation establishing strong partnerships between the City Council, Scottish Enterprise, Universities and colleges, and the private sector have contributed to Dundee becoming not only a key player in Scotland’s economy but a model to other cities journey of transformation.

For more information on Dundee’s journey see – “Winning from Second: What Geelong can learn from other International Second Cities”