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Economy of Edinburgh

Offices in the new financial district in the west of Edinburgh city centre.

Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, is a powerhouse of the Scottish economy, as well as the wider UK economy. Edinburgh has been consistently one of the most prosperous parts of the country and has the strongest economy of any city in the UK outside London.[1] Financial Times FDi Magazine has named Edinburgh as the "Best Large European City of the Future" and "Best Foreign Direct Investment Strategy (Large City)" for 2012/13.[2]


  • Economic profile 1
  • Top employers 2
  • Services 3
    • Financial Services 3.1
    • Retail 3.2
    • Tourism 3.3
  • Public sector 4
    • Education 4.1
  • Infrastructure 5
  • Challenges 6
    • Regeneration 6.1
    • Urban growth 6.2
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Economic profile

  • In 2011, the population of Edinburgh was estimated at 476,600, which was an increase of 28,000 on the figure from 2001 which stood at 448,600.[3]
  • The city has the second highest Gross Value Added (GVA) per resident (behind London) in major UK cities, with the average being £34,178 per resident.[4]
  • The employment rate for the city stands at 73.6% for Q1 of 2013, which is higher than the rate for Scotland as a whole, which stands at 71.8%.[5]
  • The city has the lowest percentage of total working age residents claiming Jobseeker's Allowance of major UK cities at 3.2% as of December 2012.[6]
  • Edinburgh is second only to London in average gross annual earnings per resident in Major UK cities, with an average salary of £27,800.[7]

Top employers

The table below shows the top employers in terms of employee numbers in the City of Edinburgh:

Top Employers, City of Edinburgh
Employer Number of employees
NHS Lothian 19,890
City of Edinburgh Council 18,617
University of Edinburgh 12,227
Royal Bank of Scotland Group 8,368
Lloyds Banking Group (inc Scottish Widows) 7,500
Standard Life 5,259
The Scottish Government 3,913
Lothian and Borders Police 2,439
Tesco (inc Tesco Bank) 2,400
Royal Mail 2,257
[6]| Source: Edinburgh by Numbers 2013/14

This next table highlights the number of people in employment in the City of Edinburgh by industrial sector:

Top Employment Sectors, City of Edinburgh
Sector Number of employees
Human health and social work 45,300
Wholesale, retail and repair 36,400
Financial Services 34,600
Education 29,200
Accommodation and food services 26,800
Professional, scientific and technical activities 27,100
Administrative and support services activities 21,000
Public administration, defence and social security 18,700
Information and communication 12,400
Transportation and storeage 10,200
Arts, entertainment and recreation 10,000
Construction 9,000
Manufacturing 7,300
Other service activities 5,500
Primary industries and utilities 3,200
Real Estate 5,200
[6]| Source: Edinburgh by Numbers 2013/14


Financial Services

A sculpture outside Standard Life buildings on Lothian Road. The area is at the heart of an expanding financial district

Edinburgh is the second largest financial centre in the United Kingdom after the City of London and the fourth in Europe by equity assets,[8] and is at the centre of a financial services in industry, which in Scotland has achieved a growth rate of over 30% over the period 2000 to 2005.[9]

Edinburgh has been a centre of banking for over 300 years, the Bank of Scotland was founded in 1695, by an act of the original Parliament of Scotland, and is now part of the Lloyds Banking Group, who have kept the Scottish headquarters in Edinburgh. The Royal Bank of Scotland also has its global headquarters in Edinburgh, operating from a new complex at Gogarburn and opened in October 2005. The bank was founded in 1727 by Royal Charter and is now the fifth largest in the world by market capitalisation. In 2000, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) acquired the National Westminster Bank in the biggest banking takeover in British history, to create a huge group with an expanded portfolio and a global outreach. Ulster Bank, Direct Line and Coutts constitute some of the other operations that are part of the RBS group. On 7 October 2007, a consortium led by RBS announced the successful acquisition of ABN AMRO, further growing its significance. Tesco Bank,[10] as well as Virgin Money[11] also have headquarters in Edinburgh.

In insurance terms, indigenous Edinburgh companies such as Standard Life and Scottish Widows form a large part of the European insurance sector as well as being major employers in the city. Scottish Widows was founded in 1815, managing £145.79 billion worth of funds at June 2013[12] with a workforce of around 3,500.

The New Town and city centre has traditionally been home to many companies, in the banking, finance and legal professions, but modern needs have caused many to relocate. Immediately to the west of the city centre is the Terry Farrell master-planned Exchange business district, which now houses major employers such as Scottish Widows, Standard Life, the Clydesdale Bank and Baillie Gifford.

Telewest, BT, Fujitsu and Lloyds Banking Group have all established large offices in this park. Following the opening of the Royal Bank's new headquarters, there will be around 20,000 people working in the western outskirts of the city.


Edinburgh has not had as large or as significant a retail sector compared to St Andrew Square and plans to redevelop Princes Street and the St. James Centre in the future.[15]

Rockstar North office building as seen from Calton Hill, famous for the GTA Series


Tourism is another important mainstay of the economy of Edinburgh, supporting 30,000 jobs in the city worth £1.6bn to the city economy.[16] In 2011, visitor spending was £1.16 billion, compared to £250 million in 1990.[17] Edinburgh is Scotland's most popular tourist destination in terms of visitor numbers, with numbers growing substantially each year, particularly in the budget travel and backpacking sector, assisted by the growth of Edinburgh Airport and direct rail links to the rest of the country. The annual Edinburgh Festival attracts record numbers, as does the Hogmanay street party each New Year, with over 4.3 million visitors attending Edinburgh's various festival events over 2012.[18] The Edinburgh Festivals in August alone generate in excess of £100 million for the Edinburgh economy. Another component of Edinburgh's tourist industry is business and conference tourism, which generates in excess of £74m for the city.[19] Edinburgh is the UK's most popular conference destination, ahead of both London and Glasgow.[16] Visitors are attracted by the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Old Town and the New Town as well as the history and culture of the city most visible in tourist attractions such as Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Edinburgh, 2012
Tourist attraction Number of visitors
National Museum of Scotland 1,893,500
Edinburgh Castle 1,230,200
Scottish National Gallery 961,300
St Giles' Cathedral 904,400
Edinburgh Zoo 810,900
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 704,600
Edinburgh Bus Tours 511,400
National War Museum 492,700
Scottish Parliament Visitor Centre 345,100
Our Dynamic Earth 331,800
Scottish National Portrait Gallery 328,000
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art 314,800
Royal Yacht Britannia 300,700
Scottish Whisky Heritage Centre 270,600
Museum of Childhood 237,500
Source: Moffat Centre Visitor Attraction Monitor 2012 [1]

Public sector

Edinburgh is the centre of Scotland's government and legal system. As a consequence many government departments and public sector agencies are headquartered in the city as well as the High Court of Justiciary and the centres of Scotland's legal establishment. As a centre of Scots law, the legal profession has had a long presence in Edinburgh, with many premises in the New Town belonging to legal practices and firms. Many ancillary economic undertakings and political pressure groups have thus set up around this new seat of government leading to a boom in the recruitment and employment of public sector officials. The City of Edinburgh Council and the National Health Service are the two largest employers in the City.


Edinburgh is a major centre of education in the United Kingdom, and has been since the establishment of the University of Edinburgh in 1583, with another 3 major higher education institutions in the city developing later. Education and academic research (including medical research) plays a significant role in the economy of the city. The presence of these educational institutions also attracts many overseas students and those from the rest of the UK. There is currently a student population of 57,850 enrolled in universities across the city.[6]

Students enrolled in Edinburgh Universities
Institution Number of students
University of Edinburgh/Edinburgh College of Art 27,675
Edinburgh Napier University 14,060
Heriot-Watt University 10,870
Queen Margaret University 5,245
[6]| Source: Edinburgh by Numbers 2013/14

Life sciences and microelectronics in particular and have grown in prominence in recent years. The University of Edinburgh is a leader in the fields of medicine and law, and was a pioneer in British artificial intelligence teaching. Heriot-Watt University specialises in science and engineering and Napier University in the fields of computing and business, as well as creative fields.

The city is also home to a number of independent schools, with around one in five school-age pupils attending private institutions.[20]


The city is linked internationally by Edinburgh Airport (EDI) which in 2012 saw almost than 9.2 million passengers throughout the year.[21] This makes Edinburgh Airport the sixth busiest in the UK, despite a 2% drop in passengers from the previous year.

In terms of rail connections, Edinburgh Waverley railway station is the principal mainline station in the city serving over 22.5 million passenger journeys over 2011-12.[22]

The city is also well served by its bus service, with Lothian Buses having its headquarters in Edinburgh. Over 70 services run throughout the city, which includes a direct link to the airport and open top buses for city tours.[23]

Edinburgh is also in the process of constructing a tram network through the city, where there will be 16 tram stops along the 14 km (8.5 miles) rout. The route will link from Edinburgh Airport in the West, to York Place in the East.[24]


The Edinburgh International Conference Centre building at the heart of the redeveloped Exchange District in the west end of the city


Derelict land and areas on the waterfront of Edinburgh at places like Granton and Leith are in the process of being regenerated to make way for mixed commercial, residential and industrial developments to further provide for the forecast growth of the city.

Urban growth

In an economic sense Edinburgh is constrained by its relatively small size,[25] and that there are economic benefits to be had with greater collaboration with surrounding areas such as Glasgow.[26] Edinburgh itself is ringed by greenbelt land, which has seen developments such as the offices at Edinburgh Park and housing and commercial developments to the south of Edinburgh spring up on it.

See also


  1. ^ Why Invest in Edinburgh [2] Edinburgh City Council Capital Review
  2. ^ "FDi European Cities & Regions of the Future 2013"
  3. ^ "Scotland's Census - 2011 Census: First Results on Population and Household Estimates for Scotland - Release 1B" [3]
  4. ^ "ONS - Regional Gross Value Added (Income Approach), December 2012"
  5. ^ "Edinburgh Economy Watch - October 2013"
  6. ^ a b c d e "Edinburgh by Numbers 13/14"
  7. ^ "Scotsman 2013 - Only London beats Edinburgh on productivity in UK"
  8. ^ Edinburgh Brand Website Edinburgh's Financial Services Sector
  9. ^ Scottish Financial Services Enterprise, 2006 [4] Financial Services Overview
  10. ^ The ScotsmanJobs Boost as Tesco to base finance arm in Capital
  11. ^ The Scotsman Virgin Money provides jobs boost for the city
  12. ^ Scottish Widows Partnership
  13. ^ Edinburgh Park Edinburgh Park Overview
  14. ^ Valuation Office Agency VOA Property Market reports
  15. ^ Capital Review[5], Capital Review: Issue 20: String of Pearls
  16. ^ a b Edinburgh Convention Bureau [6] Edinburgh Convention Bureau - Fast Facts
  17. ^
  18. ^ [7]
  19. ^ The Scotsman From nuclear physics to boob jobs - Edinburgh conferences worth £74m
  20. ^ Edinburgh by Numbers 2010/2011 - City of Edinburgh Council
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Waverley station overhaul to create city ‘piazza’".  
  23. ^ "Our company".  
  24. ^ "About the project - About the tram service and project". City of Edinburgh Council. 2013-03-22. Retrieved 2013-11-28. 
  25. ^ Scottish Enterprise, 2006 [8] Capital Catching up with International Competitors
  26. ^ Glasgow Economic Facts 2005 Glasgow Economic Analysis and Benchmark Report

External links

  • Edinburgh Economy Watch (for the latest economic trends)
  • City of Edinburgh Economic Data
  • Edinburgh by Numbers Facts and Figures Booklet 2010/11
  • Latest Labour Market Information (Updated Monthly)
  • [9] Edinburgh's Economic Strategy
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