Leeann Dempster, a former advertising executive who made it to the top of the Scottish sporting world as Chief Executive of Hibernian Football Club, has been unveiled as the key business adviser on a £1.3bn City Region Deal.

Dempster, who grew up in the East End of Glasgow and left home and school at 17, has been appointed Chair of the Regional Enterprise Council – a business and third sector body that will feed into the multi-partner, government-backed Edinburgh & South East Scotland City Region Deal.

Claire Patullo, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Social Enterprise Network, will be the third sector ‘Vice Chair’ of a panel of 13 business and third sector figures which includes Polly Purvis, Chief Executive of Scotland’s tech trade body, ScotlandIS, Stephen Ingledew, Chief Executive of FinTech Scotland.

The full panel, unveiled today, is as follows:
– Leeann Dempster (Chair)
– Claire Patullo (Vice Chair)
– Ewan Aitken, Cyrenians
– Robert Carr, Anderson Strathern
– Stephen Drost, CodeBase
– Steve Dunlop, Scottish Enterprise
– Gavin Hamilton, Taylor Wimpey
– Stephen Ingledew, Fintech Scotland
– Nile Istephan, Eildon Housing Association
– Angela Leitch, East Lothian Council
– Polly Purvis, Scotland IS
– David Thomson, Food & Drink Federation Scotland
– Damien Yeates, Skills Development Scotland

Dempster, who has advocated inclusion and growth initiatives in Edinburgh, and Patullo, who has extensive experience in delivering employability programmes and addressing barriers faced by disadvantaged groups, are part of a group that was chosen to ‘reflect the diverse economic make-up of the South-East of Scotland’.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Herald, Dempster has previously revealed how she once considered a career as a funeral director, before seguing into advertising – where she became an agency account director; she then briefly had a stint with multi-millionaire businessman John Boyle’s now defunct budget flight carrier Zoom Airlines, before moving into the world of football as General Manager and later Chief Executive of Motherwell Football Club. Dempster has been credited as the woman behind the ‘transformation of Hibs’, under whose stewardship the club has won promotion back to the Premiership and the Scottish Cup. Earlier this year, she ruled herself out of contention for the Chief Executive job at the Scottish Football Association.

A release organised by the deal partners said: “The REC is comprised of a number of individuals from small, medium and large organisations across the region who will advise the Deal’s decision-making body, the Joint Committee, on the delivery of projects across the region and engage with their respective networks to provide a consensus from their respective fields of expertise on aspects of the Deal. The membership will also have a responsibility to develop closer working between the public, private and third sectors and to champion the Deal nationally and internationally to encourage investment opportunities.”

Speaking on behalf of the Deal partners, City of Edinburgh Council leader, Adam McVey, said: “The transformative City Region Deal will deliver real, tangible opportunities for residents across the region allowing us to build a vibrant economy for our people and businesses to thrive in.

“I welcome the appointment of this exceptional group of private and third sector leaders and believe Leeann Dempster will make an outstanding chair. Together they will bring a wealth of strengths, skills and experience to the Regional Enterprise Council.”

Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills Jamie Hepburn said: “The Scottish Government’s commitment to City Region Deals is now over £1.1 billion, providing the platform for greater collaboration within and between our City Regions.

“Deal investment is only the beginning of the journey towards enabling inclusive economic growth that is truly transformational, and the Regional Economic Partnership approach being developed in Edinburgh and South-East Scotland provides an opportunity to build on this. I’m pleased to see that business and the third sector will have the opportunity to play their parts in achieving this shared ambition through the Regional Enterprise Council.”

Scottish Secretary David Mundell added: “The UK Government is investing over £1 billion in UK City Deals in Scotland. They build on existing economic strengths and create new opportunities across all parts of Scotland.  It is crucial that each deal reflects the specific needs of each region, which is why I welcome the advice and influence of this new Regional Enterprise Council.

“With experience in everything from shipping to apprenticeship schemes, these advisors will bring a range of perspectives to the table. This will ensure that the Edinburgh City Deal plays a crucial role in shaping economic prosperity across Edinburgh and South East Scotland.”

The City Region Deal is a £1.3bn investment over the next 15 years designed to accelerate economic, inclusive growth and create opportunities across the entire South-East of Scotland. The UK and Scottish Government’s have partnered with six local authorities (City of Edinburgh, East Lothian, Fife, Midlothian, Scottish Borders and West Lothian), Edinburgh’s universities and colleges and the private and third sector across the South-East of Scotland to deliver the deal. It was formally agreed on 7 August 2018.