Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire

Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire

aberdeen mapCovering urban, costal and rural geographies, the Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire City Region (AACR) area had a population of 489.490 in 2014 and accounted for 9.2 % of Scotland’s total population. Aberdeen covers 185.7 km2 and Aberdeenshire covers 6.313 km2 – 8% of Scotland’s overall territory. Aberdeen is Scotland’s third-largest city and the regional centre for employment, retail, culture, health and higher education as well as being the region’s transport hub. Aberdeenshire is mainly a rural area in the North East of Scotland.

In 2008, the Strategic Development Planning Authority (SDPA) was formed to provide a partnership between Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils to guide development over a 25-year period and establish a “European city region”. The SDPA is one of 4 city-region planning authorities in Scotland and its strategic plan was approved by Scottish Ministers in March 2014. The SPDA aim to tackle the region’s challenges by 2035, with Aberdeen City and Shire enhancing the Region as a place to live, visit and do business and actively including communities, public-sector organisations and private businesses in this process.

The City Region has prioritised areas in need of regeneration and include coastal communities of north and south Aberdeenshire as well as parts of Aberdeen City with social, economic and area-based regeneration initiatives to improve the economy, environmental quality, accessibility, employment opportunities and the competitiveness of business. The Plan aims to provide opportunities that encourage economic development and create new employment in a range of areas that are both appropriate for and attractive to the needs of different industries, while at the same time improving the essential strategic infrastructure necessary to allow the economy to grow over the long term.

The Plan seeks to retain appropriately skilled people in the region, but also to promote skills that will support the economic develop vision. The need for skilled and innovative people is highlighted in the Plan in order to develop a more flexible and resilient workforce and industries. The Plan also sees the service sector, including retail and tourism, as important for development. This sector is seen as key for maintaining the vitality and viability of town centres and opportunities for growth in the economy.


There is a functional interdependency between Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City. Traditionally, AACR has been economically dependent upon the agriculture, fishing, and forestry and related processing industries, but over the last 40 years, the development of the oil and gas industry and associated service sector has broadened Aberdeenshire’s economic base, and contributed to a rapid population growth of 50% since 1975.

The region currently has above-average incomes and low unemployment. However, the relatively recent changes in the global oil economy and, more locally, differences in wealth and opportunity between some of the region’s communities are seen as significant economic and social challenges.


Around 10% of the AACR’s workforce is directly employed in the energy sector compared to just 1.7 % UK wide. However, the recent downturn in the global energy market is likely to impact on this and have implications for employment and skills in this sector.

Life sciences, food and drink and tourism also feature in the economic landscape of the Region. Traditional industries of farming and fishing are seen as an important focus for development, while promoting a more diverse local economy with developments in the field of renewable energy. Support from local universities and research organisations is seen as important here.


There are currently 12 secondary schools in Aberdeen and 17 in Aberdeenshire; there are 54 primary schools in Aberdeen City and 152 in Aberdeenshire run by the city council, in addition to a number of private schools. There are two universities; University of Aberdeen and The Robert Gordon University. North East Scotland College is the regional college in AACR.

According to Skills Development Scotland data, Further and Higher Education leavers in the AACR are deemed more work-ready by employers than the national average, although this is the reverse for school leavers.


The AACR currently has above-average incomes and low unemployment. The average household earnings throughout the region are higher than those nationally. However, there are still some 20.000 workless households in the region.

The proportion of school pupils entitled to free school meals is lower than Scotland, particularly so in Aberdeenshire. While much lower than the Scotland and UK averages, there remain a significant number of those work limited through disability in the area, and concentrations of employment deprivation (SDS 2016, p. 18). However, the latest figures released by the Scottish Housing Condition Survey show that 42% of people in Aberdeenshire are living in fuel poverty. The figure is considerably higher than the Scottish average which is 27 %. In Aberdeen, 22 % of the population struggle to heat their homes.


The SDS Regional Skills Assessment for the AACR stresses that local enactment of existing National strategies and policies remain important for the AACR including the 2010 Skills Strategy (Scottish Government 2010) and the 2014 Developing the Young Workforce-Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy (Scottish Government 2014). The region’s LLL and skills policies are closely tied to promoting regional economic performance and resilience.

The AACR’s Plan and localised actions seek to retain appropriately skilled people in the Region but also to promote skills that will support the economic develop vision that will “contribute to the Region’s international competitiveness and sustainability” (Aberdeen City Regional Economic Strategy. 2015 p. 6).

The Aberdeen Guarantees programme – and associated actions – stands out as a key regional strategy. This involves a commitment to providing all young people 14-25 years old with opportunities to participate in learning, training and work including access to Modern Apprenticeships and enhanced information for students, parents and teachers about the job market and skills required across the Region. This articulates with the £2.2m European Social Fund (ESF) Employability Pipeline Project that aims to increase economic activity through training and work experience placements.

There is also an Expanded Council programme of apprenticeships and placements. This refines national Modern Apprenticeship measures with local partnerships to support young people into employment. As with the Glasgow City Region, the funding for the region’s LLL and skills programmes comes from the City Plan Agreement with the Scottish Government, the UK Government contributing. In addition, the two partner local authorities will also contribute and sometimes borrow to support their policies and actions. Other sources, mainly European funding also feature.

Some of the most important LLL and skills policies for young adults developed at the AACR are:

This project has received funding from the European Union´s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 693167