Islands leader meets mandarin to discuss funding after Brexit
A MEETING between the Scottish Islands Federation (SIF) chairwoman and a member of the Scottish Government European exit negotiation team discussed important issues facing the islands in the light of the Brexit vote.
Chairwoman Camille Dressler, from Eigg, met Jason Lloyd of the Scottish Government last month to discuss such issues as agricultural policies, environmental protection and safeguarding fragile island communities.
At present, people living in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland benefit by 429 euros in structural EU funding per person.
This is the third highest subsidy per person in the UK, with only Cornwall and West Wales gaining higher amounts. But overall the UK is among the five lowest beneficiaries from the EU with only 169 euros per person.
Ms Dressler said: ‘The main concern for the Scottish Islands Federation’s members is how the move away from the European Union cohesion policy with its associated structural funds and the Common Agriculture Policy will be managed in order to safeguard the fragile economies of the islands and avoid real risks of depopulation.’
As Ms Dressler suggested, the cohesion policy has over the UK’s membership of the European Union addresses disparities between the EU regions and promotes balanced and sustainable development.
It is understood that West Coast islands have benefited to a greater degree due to the hard work of the Scottish Islands Federation and had been able to source finance from the European Structural and Investment Funds.
Ms Dressler added: ‘Feedback from SIF members indicates that the prospect of Scotland being forced to leave the EU against its will is one which they think will starve the islands of crucial economic and social support, potentially jeopardise their fragile and precious environments, and hamper their development aspirations for decades to come.
‘The SIF had a long list of questions for the Brexit negotiation team. High on the list was the question about European structural funds. With a GDP of 75 to 90 per cent of the EU average, the islands have benefited from a whole suite of European structural funds including LEADER and Rural Development Funds.
‘What funding guarantees can the Scottish Government ask or provide,’ asked the SIF chairwoman, ‘given that the UK does not appear to have any policy equivalent to the current EU cohesion policy?’