Islands MSP warns of dangers from EU departure
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.’