Is­lands MSP warns of dan­gers from EU de­par­ture

The Oban Times - - News -

BREXIT should set alarm bells ring­ing in the High­lands and Is­lands, a Holy­rood shadow min­is­ter has warned.

Scot­tish Labour’s shadow min­is­ter for en­vi­ron­ment, cli­mate change and land re­form, David Ste­wart, said leav­ing the Euro­pean Union, as Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s new UK gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to do, presents a huge risk for farm­ers, in­fra­struc­ture and ex­ports such as Scot­tish salmon.

Mr Ste­wart, a list MSP for the High­lands and Is­lands, said on a fact-find- ing visit to Oban’s Job­cen­tre: ‘It’s clear the re­mit of the Tory gov­ern­ment is to exit. There are clouds on the hori­zon that will af­fect ev­ery­one in Argyll and Bute. This af­fects every party and every in­di­vid­ual.

‘Farm­ing is cru­cial for the peo­ple of Argyll and Bute. Some farm­ers I speak to have 90 per cent of their in­come from sin­gle farm pay­ments [also known as CAP fund­ing]. CAP is funded by Europe. What will hap­pen? No- one knows.’

Euro­pean struc­tural funds for roads, bridges, cause­ways, har­bours and fer­ries are also at risk, he said. ‘ While the UK is a net con­trib­u­tor to the EU, the High­lands and Is­lands was a cru­cial area for spend, be­cause the EU rightly has a pol­icy of con­ver­gence: bring­ing up poorer ar­eas of the EU to the aver­age, and we were at 75 per cent of aver­age GDP.

‘The fig­ures for spend are phe­nom­e­nal, around £2 bil­lion. How is that go­ing to be re­placed? [Struc­tural funds] helped fund the UHI, the Mal­laig Road, the Kes­sock Bridge and just about every cause­way in the West­ern Isles. They’re there to stim­u­late eco­nomic devel­op­ment – that’s why I’m so con­cerned about exit.

‘It will be a rash man or woman who pre­dicts there will be a sin­gle mar­ket, or that we will have uni­fied CAP pay­ments. The ne­go­ti­a­tion takes place with 27 coun­tries ver­sus the one. Alarm bells are ring­ing with me on all these is­sues.’

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