Is­lands leader meets man­darin to dis­cuss fund­ing af­ter Brexit

The Oban Times - - NEWS - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­times.co.uk

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?’

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