The extent of poverty in Scotland has been underlined as 28 out of 29 mainland local authorities - the only exception is Moray - submitted bids for the Pounds 80 million which the Government plans to spend on tackling the country's most deprived areas. A key role is to be played by education.
The total amount on the table, however, is dependent on money being released as existing urban aid projects are wound down, which could take up to six years. Decisions on whether these should cease or transfer into the new urban programme will be taken at local level.
The Scottish Office has already earmarked Pounds 5m in the current financial year for between 12 and 15 urban regeneration initiatives. The money will be allocated to local partnership bodies made up of local authorities, enterprise agencies, the voluntary sector, health boards, chambers of commerce and universities.
The move has been welcomed by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities as a more flexible and strategic approach which does not tie money to individual urban aid projects.
Jim Daisley, a South Lanarkshire councillor who is Cosla's economic development spokesperson, said: "An army of staff in local government did little else but prepare urban aid submissions, which became a never ending, tortuous process with bits of paper going back and fore to the Scottish Office. The whole thing became a bit of a beauty contest as to which applications were successful. The evaluating criteria in the future should be clearer."
Mr Daisley fears, however, that the scope for urban regeneration will be limited to a few areas and that resources will be limited.
The new policy is based on the success of four Pounds 400m partnership programmes set up in 1988 by the Scottish Office: Castlemilk in Glasgow, Wester Hailes in Edinburgh, Whitfield in Dundee and Ferguslie Park in Paisley (right).
But the money available is dwarfed by bids submitted from the four cities alone. Glasgow wants Pounds 50m for the first year of a 10-year programme covering seven areas. Edinburgh is seeking Pounds 16m each year for the next decade to cover four city areas. Dundee hopes for Pounds 6.6m for three programmes (including one that is city wide), and Aberdeen has an immediate need for Pounds 1m a year over five years. Scottish councils have submitted a total of 49 projects, of which 30 are priorities.
Councils and their partners plan to spend the money in a unified campaign on housing, health, the environment and education. Their hopes are ambitious. Edinburgh, for example, is aiming for "significant improvements" in the literacy skills of 4,000 pupils from nursery school to the third year of primary school and for 1,500 parents to be involved in an early intervention programme to boost their children's basic skills.
The link between educational achievement, training and employment is a common thread throughout the partnership bids. North Lanarkshire, which is second only to Glasgow in the number of deprived areas and has submitted projects worth Pounds 7m a year, pledges to develop mainstream education so its people can "secure and maintain employment." Dundee's plans stress the importance of vocational and educational guidance.
The Government hopes to announce the successful bids in the autumn.