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Towards a future post-brexit regional policy for Scotland

 Post Brexit regional UK policy: is there one?

In many respects EU Policies have acted as a proxy for a UK regional policy.

Through the EU Territorial Cohesion Policy,  European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) have been used to support economic development in Scotland both at regional and local level.

EU Regional Policy and funding have had a major impact in terms of reducing social and economic disparities. They have been a significant driver in transforming the economic and social wellbeing of the Highlands & Islands with £1.5 b invested up to now.

But after exiting the EU, UK regions including the Highlands and Islands will no longer be able to access the ESIF funds.

Post Brexit, the UK Government have announced that the so called Shared Prosperity Fund will replace ESIF funds. However, there is little clarity or detail supplied on the way the Shared prosperity fund will operate and on which the basis the funds will be distributed.

Why there should be one?

Estimates are that the Shared Prosperity Fund may only have 2% devoted to the rural economy, so the proportion of what will actually come to Scotland is still unknown.

The question is  whether it can be shared equally and fairly if there are no regional policy at UK and Scottish Government level.

The Scottish Rural Parliament made a clear statement on Brexit, calling for a clear and direct UK and Scottish Government’s commitment to equality for rural people, places and enterprise in Scotland, as well as reassurance through clear commitments that the UK and Scottish Government will continue to meet the needs of rural people, places and enterprises.
Read the Scottish Rural Parliament statement here.

Scotland’s Islands and Highland deserve         a coherent regional policy and support

The policy paper by HIEP – Highland and Islands European Partnership- sets out a vision for a future regional policy for Scotland that would address these concerns:

  • A future Regional Policy needs to empower the region to contribute to UK and Scottish economic growth, while recognising permanent and long term challenges.
  •  A future Regional Policy  development and delivery needs to be led by devolved administrations and regional stakeholders
  • A future regional policy needs a long term strategic focus, maximising regional economic potential that is sustainable and inclusive.
The HIEP paper calls for a need to recognise and respond to regional disparity.
  • A future regional policy should focus on regions with the greatest challenges
  • Clear and objective criteria are required, considering spatial scale and definition of selected regions.
  • There is an opportunity to consider more sophisticated selection criteria, beyond GDP per capita, for example, population sparsity, employment /participation rates, average wage levels, skill levels, economic concentration, “remoteness”, “fragility”.
  • Funding will need to be available over the
    long term at a level commensurate with the scale
    of challenge and opportunity, rather than short
    term, one-off allocations of funding.
  • Regional stakeholders should have an input to address
    the specific regional challenges and capitalise on regional opportunities.

Regional policy should be place-based

By ensuring future regional policy is place based, there is a chance to:

  • Enhance the region’s physical and digital connectivity.
  • Provide investment in sectors / clusters where the region has competitive advantage, such as marine energy and life sciences – regional Smart Specialisation.
  • Investment in new technologies, particularly  the “Local Energy Economy”
  • attract and retain talent, recognising that this is multi-faceted, including employment, education, housing, connectivity and transport.
  • Invest  in education and skills infrastructure and provision to match the future needs of the regional economy.
  • Invest in community capacity building and resilience, leading to strong, vibrant communities.

Now is the time!

HIEP  stresses that how important it is that lessons learned from our collective experience of EU programmes are captured and inform the development and delivery of successor domestic programmes.
HIEP is also stressing that time is running out. “The current structural funds programmes end in 2020 and now is the time to develop future regional policy to avoid a damaging hiatus in Regional Policy and support”, concludes their paper.
You can read the full HIEP position paper here.

 

 

Empowering Small Island Communities: report from our 2018 learning exchange and AGM

What a rich and inspiring time we had in Tiree. Over the three days, thirty-two islanders representing twenty different islands came together to learn from each other and debate a wide range of topics including the Islands (Scotland) Act, Crown Estate, Brexit, Housing, Social Care, Marine Plastic, Tourism, Energy, Population & Demographics as well as a strategy session for S.I.F – a very productive few days despite Storm Ali!

We would like to thank everyone that was able to attend, contribute and help out. We would also like to thank the Community Learning Exchange which made it possible for many of us to be there along with our funding contribution from the Scottish Government.

You can read the full report here : Scottish Islands Federation – Tiree Report and see some of the presentations and briefings below:

Keynote address by Michael Russell MSP

S.I.F Briefing: Smart Islands

Crown Estate Scotland: Local Engagement and Management

S.I.F Briefing Paper: Health & Social Care in Small Island Communities

Workshop on Island Social Care

Workshop on the Impact of Tourism

S.I.F Briefing: Marine Plastics

 

Scottish Rural Parliament: the final Brexit statement

          The Scottish rural Parliament

Engaging Scotland’s rural communities on Brexit

Policy Statement

WE CALL FOR:
1. Clear and direct UK and Scottish Government’s commitment to
equality for rural people, places and enterprise in Scotland.          Rural and island communities in Scotland are fearful that our needs are unheard and will be unmet in the future by the UK and Scottish
Government, which can feel distant and removed from our
day to day lives. The EU brings a long history of support for peripheral rural and island areas which has had a significant impact on the sustainability and development of rural areas. We need reassurance through clear commitments that the UK and Scottish Government will continue to meet the needs of rural people, places and enterprises.
2.Responsive government and connected political leadership
that engages with rural communities with regard to Brexit.
There is a climate of uncertainty with a number of negative impacts,
including an increasing lack of confidence now and in the future,
leading to risk-aversion and apathy amongst rural businesses
in particular. We need to see demonstrable and effective leadership that brings clarity and provides security to build confidence.
3. Reassurances that both the UK and Scottish Government will attract migrant workers and their families. There is deep concern in a number of sectors including tourism, health and agriculture that migrant worker numbers have already decreased to critical levels in some areas and will continue to decrease after Brexit. Current
and future migrant workers and their families need to feel welcomed and have the right to remain. Processes to accept workers post Brexit need to positively empower by being accessible and straightforward. The Scottish Government should use its devolved powers to proactively attract and support workers from all communities.
4. Funding allocations to be made on an equitable basis for rural
Scotland. There is concern about the level of resources that will be
available to Scotland from the proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund
post- Brexit and a fear of increasing centralisation around resource allocation that would mitigate in favour of urban rather than rural
areas. Recognising specific challenges and opportunities to remote, rural and island communities, consideration requires to be given to a fair and equitable distribution of resources to Scotland.mThere needs to be ring-fenced funding for rural areas and priorities
in the budget process moving forward.
5.Place-based rural community and economic development
The L EADER and EMFF place-based, grassroots approach
has contributed significantly to the fabric of Scottish rural
life and economic development for over 20 years.  At a time where
rural communities are under most pressure, it is essential that steps
are taken to secure the future of this approach andthe funding that came with it from the European Union.
6. Government support to celebrate cultural diversity, community cohesion and resilience. There needs to be government support to promote the principles of wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity
throughout society recognising the distinctive nature of our rural communities. There is a consensus that Brexit is interpreted by some as a valid platform for openly expressing views with a negative impact on cultural diversity. This includes the behaviour of politicians at a UK level around Brexit which has diminished public confidence and trust in national government leadership, ultimately impacting on perceptions of politicians in general. This is particularly the case in relation to immigration issues. A proactive approach is needed to develop community cohesion and address concerns of racism and xenophobia, and a clear message should be sent
that this behaviour is not to be tolerated.
7. The UK Government to respect and commit to working with devolved governments throughout the transition from EU membership. It is evident that Scotland and the other UK devolved governments are being excluded from decision-making throughout the Brexit negotiations and will continue to be excluded through the re-shaping of policy post-EU membership. This contributes to a sense of ongoing powerlessness in rural communities. The voice of ruralcommunities in Scotland can only be heard if the voices of our elected officials and unelected people are heard and respected,
and approaches to participatory democracy are used to ensure we
feel valued, respected and listened to. Devolved powers and responsibilities should remain devolved.
8. The recognition of the importance of an independent voice for rural communities  in Scotland. An independent mechanism is essential to enable all voices of rural Scotland to be heard at
every level and the appropriate forums to shape national policy for rural Scotland. Scottish Rural Action has emerged as a key voice for rural communities and requires appropriate resourcing and support
to fulfil its potential.
9.Recognising that Brexit will have a detrimental effect on existing
poverty and hardship in rural Scotland. We want rural communities to continue to have a strong collective voice, decision-making powers and investment to enable us to thrive andaddress the challenges of rural poverty, hardship and de-population in their own unique ways.
10. Valuing and maximising the diversity of the rural economy
The contribution of a diverse rural economy needs to be recognised as keyto Scotland and the UK, with its high levels of talent, entrepreneurship and assets. There is concern that the historic and current neglect and continuing decline of some areas is not recognised. It is essential that the policy is sustainable, valuing collaboration and maximising the opportunities and connections between sectors and communities.

Young returners turning the tide of island population trends

In a great piece of news, a recent study of young people on the islands that stretch from Eriskay to Berneray has shown that, against the trend of many areas, young islanders are staying on the islands and returning home.

A wide range of factors seem to be behind this very welcome trend and you can read the full article here – Young returners to Uist press release 04 Apr 18 (2)

Are you seeing a similar trend on your island or is it going the opposite way – let us know.

The research has sparked much interested and you can see some further coverage here:

Herald story on young people and Uist 16 Apr 18

The Herald on why young people settling on Uist

 

From Water Saving to Green Tourism

March 2018 saw the conclusion of the ESIN water study involving 8 small European islands in Greece, Croatia, Ireland and France which all had issues with water shortage. ESIN received a prize for its research on four areas of water saving actions (training, engineering, billing and switching off) at the Greening the Islands Conference held in Savignana, Sicily, last September and will be presenting an overview of the project at the 2nd Smart Islands Global Gathering in Calvia this April.

One of the most interesting examples of water saving was provided by 2 islands in Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, Vis and Lastovo. The diagram below represents their average water consumption of 120 litres per day split in different uses: the darker the colour, the less purified the water needs to be. By way of comparison, the average daily water consumption rate per capita in Europe varies between 40 and 150 litres per day.

To encourage water saving in particular through water flow reducers (from 12 to 6 litres per minute), Sunce, a local sustainable development agency, developed “EkoPartner,” an eco-certification program for environmentally-responsible private tourist accommodations. The EkoPartner certification included 3 mandatory eco criteria, water saving, waste recycling (at least one type of waste) and energy efficiency (LED lights), with a further 7 criteria: washing & cleaning with eco products, green transport, local community involvement, organic and local food, noise & light pollution, traditional architecture, knowledge improvement.
10 small tourist accommodation providers on Lastovo and 5 on Vis were certified: a good start but not enough to make a real impact.

To build on this, Sunce started a new innovative eco-certification program called Dalmatia Green last July as part of a Greening of Dalmatia Tourism Offer project. To prove that going ‘green’ and saving water really pays off, the program provides several discounts to tourist accommodations from green industry companies to enable an easier step into eco-friendly practices.

Dalmatia Green then differentiates eco-friendly accommodations and lists them on Ecobnb.com – an international platform for booking of sustainable accommodations. The program also has an educational dimension in that guests are provided with tips on how to be a sustainable tourist and use water wisely!

Islands Bill Makes it Way Through Stage 2

The Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee has now considered Stage 2 of the Bill and has agreed several amendments brought forward by MSP’s and Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport & the Islands.   A summary of where things are is outlined below:

‘In Spring 2013, following the announcement that there would be a Scottish Independence Referendum, Scotland’s three island authorities – Orkney, Shetland and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar – formed a joint constitutional working group. This culminated in the launch of the Our Islands Our Future campaign in June 2013, and subsequent commitments from both the Scottish and UK Governments to better support and empower Scotland’s island communities’ – Islands (Scotland) Bill Executive Summary.

The Islands (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 9 June 2017 with 5 main provisions:

• National Islands Plan to set out government strategy for improving outcomes for island communities.
• Duties placed on Scottish Ministers and public bodies to have due regard to island communities – this will include carrying out island impact assessments.
• Protecting the parliamentary constituency boundary of Na h-Eileanan an Iar.
• Exceptions to the rules around three or four-member wards.
• Licensing scheme for works in or under the sea in the coastal waters around islands up to 12 nautical miles.

Read the full summary and timeline here.

Passing a new law in Scotland involves three stages:

Stage 1: parliament considers the main principles behind the bill, what it is trying to do and how it will do it. Public consultation is carried out and evidence collected. The Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee was appointed as the lead committee to scrutinise the Islands Bill and Stage 1 was completed on 8 February 2018.

Stage 2: there is an opportunity at Stage 2 for amendments to the bill to be lodged for consideration. Several proposed amendments to the Islands Bill were considered by the Committee on the 21 March and 28 March. Among the amendments agreed were considerations given to uninhabited islands, biosecurity around invasive species, including linguistic heritage, listing public authorities and involvement of island authorities and communities in the National Islands Plan. Discussion around the Plan highlighted the need to take action on key issues around broadband, ferries, fuel poverty and population decline. Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands brought forward the following amendment that the National Islands Plan should:

Improving outcomes for island communities and include improving and promoting:

(a) sustainable economic development,
(b) health and wellbeing, and
(c) community empowerment.

Stage 3: this will involve the final considerations and is the last opportunity for MSP’s to lodge amendments. Amendments will be considered followed by Decision Time on whether the Bill should be passed.

After that: once passed, a final version of the Bill will be published and there will be a four-week period when it can be challenged. After this the Presiding Officer will submit the Bill to The Queen for Royal Assent. It will then become an Act of the Scottish Parliament and part of the law of Scotland.

Fuel Poverty Strategy for Scotland – An Island Perspective

“We want to see more households living in well insulated warm homes; accessing affordable, low carbon energy; and having an increased understanding of how to best use energy efficiency in their homes” – Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities.

In its ambition to eradicate fuel poverty, the Scottish Government is bringing forward a new Fuel Poverty Strategy and a Warm Homes Bill.

People in island and rural communities are living with the highest levels of fuel poverty and acute fuel poverty in Scotland and  the opportunity to contribute an island perspective to the consultation was very welcome.

However, while we were pleased to see a recognition within the consultation of the distinct and additional challenges for island communities, we were disappointed that this did not translate into proposals for distinct and tailored action on the ground or embrace the enormous opportunity islands hold for sustainable energy.  In fact we are concerned that the proposal as it stands may have an unintended  detrimental impact on island and rural communities.

You can read our submission to the consultation here.

 

 

 

 

 

The Clean Energy for EU Islands Initiative

Malta Political Declaration on European Islands

Following on from the Smart Islands Initiative, spearheaded by island local and regional authorities of the Members States signing the Smart Islands Declaration,  momentum has been building up for national and European support for islands in Europe.

In the frame of the informal meeting of Energy ministers that took place in Valetta under the 2017 Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU, Ministers of 14 Members States including from Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Italy, Croatia, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Finland and Estonia signed together with the European Commission a political declaration to launch the new “Clean Energy for EU Islands” initiative.

Unfortunately the UK was not represented, although Scotland is very much at the forefront of the Renewable Energy revolution. However these policies have the support of the Scottish Government, and Scotland through S.I.F. and the Islands Councils in the CPMR are actively representing local and regional stakeholders.

Clean Energy for EU Islands” initiative.

The initiative builds on the Commission’s “Clean Energy for All    Europeans” Communication of November 2016. The overall goal is for the EU to become a low carbon economy via transformation of its energy system by

  • putting energy efficiency first
  • achieving global leadership in renewable energies
  • providing a fair deal for consumers

To start the transition process in the EU, the Initiative aims at  first accelerating the clean energy transition on EU islands, by helping them reduce their dependency on energy imports through enhanced exploitation of their own renewable energy sources and uptake of more modern and innovative energy systems.

Members States expressed their full support to the Initiative as a stable, long-term framework that will help support replicable and scalable projects through the provision of financing and technical capacity for islands.

To this end, they invited other countries to join and:

  • accelerate the clean energy transition on EU’s 2700 islands
  • help islands reduce dependency and costs of energy imports by using RES
  • embrace modern and innovative energy systems
  • improve air quality and lower greenhouse gas emissions

The Chania Inaugural Forum

The island of Crete hosted the Inaugural Forum on the “Clean Energy for All European Islands” initiative, part of the Winter Package, that was tabled by the European Commission last November under the title “Clean Energy for All Europeans”.

The Forum was organized by the European Commission and the Greek government with over 200 participants and close to 40 speakers taking the floor, representing an overwhelming endorsement by political representatives of national, regional and local level as well as industry and civil society stakeholders. Community Energy Scotland was invited to present the access project in Mull and other pioneering Scottish projects.

The islands are now widely recognised as platforms for pilot initiatives and showcases for success stories. Islands are:

  • innovation leaders for integrating local RES production, storage facilities and demand response;
  • demonstrating how decarbonisation creates resilient energy systems via reduced reliance on fossil fuel imports, the protection of environment, and autonomy of energy supply
  • showing that energy transition can be a driver for economic development (new local jobs, new business opportunities, self-sufficiency of island communities)

Next measures

The next measures are a Clean Energy Package to create the right legal framework (RES, consumers and stability for investment and a two directional approach for facilitation of transition and “island-frontrunners”: top-down and bottom up, as well as cooperation with national/regional organisations of islands

The EU commission has an ambitious objective: 1000 EU islands decarbonised by 2030!

A Clean EU Energy Islands Secretariat

The call for a Clean Energy EU island secretariat is a first step to ensure that islands can become platforms for pilot initiatives on clean energy transition and showcase success stories of islands’ transition at international level. The next step is to set up an Island Facility  under Horizon 2020 to support the comprehensive energy transition in preparatory and implementation phase.

Based in Brussels but reaching out to the islands, the Secretariat’s aim is to carry out a benchmarking study on energy systems on islands and to assist the islands to design and prepare decarbonisation plans by providing dedicated capacity building, technical assistance and advisory services.

  • It will create and manage a platform of exchange of practice for islands involved clean energy projects through a dedicated website which will also offer web-based tools to facilitate networking and exchanges.
  • It will also organise Islands Initiative forums and islands technology fairs to bring together all interested parties including investors, to share best practice in financial and regulatory tools and promoting best available technologies, with the aim to take action on the ground.
  • It will concentrate on identifying and executing clean energy projects that create local employment, community empowerment, as well as support growth in tourism, agriculture, fisheries and other important economic sectors on the islands through lower local energy pricesS.I.F. and ESIN are part of a bid to run the secretariat fronted by the CPMR, together with Community Energy Scotland. Their bid is  the only one fronted by island organisations and is supported by the Scottish Government. The winning bid will be announced by July 2018.