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Report on the S.I.F. Brexit survey

Scotland’s Islands and post-Brexit UK funding: tell us what you think!

The response to our survey was overwhelmingly in favour of Scotland’s running its own regional policy and funding.

See the report at the end of the introduction below.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund

Following Article 50, the UK Government has announced the setting up of a “Shared Prosperity Fund” to replace the European Structural Funds  (ESIFs). These funds underpin the European territorial Cohesion Policy, which aim to strengthen economic, social and territorial cohesion in all regions.

A cross-party group has looked at how the Shared Prosperity Fund could simply replicate the way ESIFs are allocated, with a simplified bureaucracy. But with no UK regional policy in place, its report pointed out that nearly everything about the Fund is still to be worked out, leaving huge unresolved issues:

  • How much funding will be available?
  • How will it be divided up across the UK?
  • What activities will be eligible for support?
  • Who will take the decisions about how the money is spent?

Here is our chance to give our opinion

Discussing the Shared Prosperity Fund at the Scottish Rural parliament last October, North Ayrshire MP Philippa Whiteford pointed out that only 2% of the fund was intended for the rural economy of the UK, with no indication of what would come to rural Scotland and less favoured areas such as the Highlands and Islands.

The consultation supposed to take place in autumn 2018 for the fund to be in place by 2020 has yet to be done. There is now a huge worry that at the end of 2020, there will be a funding hiatus, with nothing in place to ensure a smooth transition from EU funds on which the rural economy depends.

In Scotland, the National Council of Rural Advisers (NCRA) has come up with ideas for a new rural economy framework that would ensure that transition. Responding to Scottish Government enquiry, Island Councils have also asked that any future funding mechanisms revert back to giving more decision making powers to the regions themselves and the flexibility they feel has been lacking in the last allocation period.

Here is a chance to tell us what a regional policy could look like, and how a Shared Prosperity Fund might operate in Scotland. Your opinion counts and the survey results will be shared with the Scottish government.

SIF Survey report on Post Brexit funding

UK to lose potential 13 billions euros of development funds through Brexit

New analysis from the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) estimates that the United Kingdom would be entitled to approximately 13 billion euros of regional development funding for the 2021-2027 period should it stay in the European Union.

The CPMR carried out a projection of the theoretical share of European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund + funding for the United Kingdom for the 2021-2027 period if it remained a member of the European Union.

This projection, based on the European Commission’s allocation methodology for the ERDF and ESF+ funds, shows that the UK regions and nations would be entitled to an increase of 22% for the 2021-2027 period, compared to the allocation of 10.6 billion euros for 2014-2020.

This increase can largely be explained by the fact many areas of the UK are falling behind the EU average in terms of regional prosperity.

According to the CPMR projection, Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly and West Wales & the Valleys, the two regions in the UK currently classed as ‘less developed regions’ under the European Commission’s eligibility rules, would still stand to receive a significant share of the UK allocation of Cohesion Policy.

In addition, the regions of South Yorkshire, Tees Valley & Durham and Lincolnshire would also become less developed regions for the 2021-2027 period. All five of these regions would stand to receive EU support in excess of 500 euros per capita for the seven-year period.

The CPMR projection also shows that regional disparities in the UK are increasing. There are significant differences in aid intensity (funds per capita) from Cohesion Policy from one area to another.

The difference between Inner London, the UK’s richest NUTS II region with a regional GDP average of 614% of the EU average, and West Wales and the Valleys, the UK’s poorest with a regional GDP of 68% of the EU average, is particularly striking and a unique case in Europe.

CPMR Secretary General, Eleni Marianou, said:Our analysis provides clear evidence that Brexit would be disastrous for the regional development of UK regions. In CPMR we stand by our UK members and share their concerns on the persistent regional disparities that will be further aggravated.”

Read the CPMR analysis ‘UK entitled to €13bn regional funding if it remains in EU

The CPMR is a European organisation representing the interests of 160 regions from 25 countries from the European Union and beyond. The UK Members of the CPMR include the Welsh Government, several local authorities in Scotland including the Scottish Island Councils, and Cornwall Council and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council in England. It carried out this exercise in the context of the uncertainty of Brexit, and it forms part of a broader body of work carried out by the CPMR on Cohesion Policy funding mechanisms to understand the impact of the negotiations for the benefits of its Members.

Striving for enhanced territorial cohesion

Cohesion Policy is the main EU investment policy which aims at reinforcing economic, social and territorial cohesion in all regions.

The policy is delivered mainly through regional programmes and projects financed by the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund. Cohesion is therefore at the core of CPMR’s activities.

CPMR advocates for a territorial investment policy to reinforce economic, social and territorial cohesion in all regions based on strong multi-level governance arrangements in partnership with regions and their citizens at its core.

A regular partner of the EU institutions, CPMR participates in the European Commission expert group on Structural Funds, the Network of Territorial Cohesion Contact point meetings and the Informal EU Council on Cohesion, and has a long-standing working relationship with the European Parliament.

CPMR is also a member of the S3 Platform Mirror Group and the Future of Cohesion working group at the Committee of the Regions.

The main areas of are:

  • A reinforced and legitimised role for Regions within Cohesion Policy
  • The role and impact of financial instruments within Cohesion Policy
  • Reducing the administrative burden and simplifying the Policy
  • A well-resourced Cohesion Policy for all Regions

CPMR actions on Cohesion Policy are coordinated by a dedicated working group (the ‘Core Group’).

Towards a new road map for the Scottish rural economy

Towards a new road map for the Scottish rural economy

An Island Perspective – Help Shape the Debate

Amid the Brexit chaos, it is more important than ever for islanders to express strongly their opinion on how future regional policies should be shaped. 

Building on Brexit discussion at our 2018 AGM in Tiree, S.I.F is pulling together an island position paper –  please help shape the debate by responding to  our survey We hope the post and links below will provide a good background for your response! 

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/DNGDBFF

No real regional policy in place at present

Brexit is actually providing a real opportunity to look at what rural and regional policies really look like in the UK and Scotland.

The conclusion is that in many respects EU Policies have acted as a proxy for UK and Scottish regional policy:  it is fair to say that in the absence of a UK national regional policy, economic development in Scotland both at regional and local level has in large measure been delivered through eligibility for European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) support as well as the CAP (Common Agriculture Policy) and the EMFF (European Maritime and Fisheries Fund).

ESIFs include the European Social Fund (ESF), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). Their aim is to reduce disparities between regions in the EU through its Territorial Cohesion Policy.  This policy has the objective of aligning living standards across the various European regions.

About a third of the EU budget goes into these funds: Over the years, this has had a major impact in terms of reducing social and economic disparities.

In Scotland this money currently provides between 10 and 25 per cent of local authority economic development and employability spend. In the case of a less favoured area – a transition status area like the Highlands and Islands – ESIFs have also been a significant driver in transforming the economic and social wellbeing of our region with £1.5 billion invested up to now.

Support to our rural areas

The importance of Common Agricultural Policy ( CAP) funding to the Scottish agriculture sector must not be underestimated, with support payments in 2016 contributing over 65.42 per cent of the total income from farming in Scotland.  For the Less Favoured Area sheep sector such as in the Highlands and Islands, CAP support was 230 per cent of Farm Business Income. The importance of EU CAP Pillar 2 funding through the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP)  was key in creating and safeguarding over 30,000 jobs as well as improving business efficiency, output, quality and competitiveness under the previous programme.

The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund ( EMFF) has provided crucial support for fisheries, aquaculture, the processing sector supporting communities and jobs that depend on them.

The LEADER approach (currently funded from EMFF and SRDP) has also played a unique role in enabling local partnerships to foster innovation and invest in their local development priorities, including local economies. LEADER funding has also fostered collaborative working between Scotland and others across the UK and EU.

So regardless of Brexit or the form of Brexit, it is time to step  back and consider how policies, programmes and funding can better serve the needs of our rural society, rural economy and environment.

A very sketchy UK Shared Prosperity Fund: 

Unfortunately, there has been little opportunity for UK wide joined up thinking on this issue.  Following the UK exit from the EU, the UK Government has announced the setting up of a “Shared Prosperity Fund” to replace ESIFs.

A cross-party group has looked at how the Shared Prosperity Fund could simply replicate the way ESIFs are allocated, with a simplified bureaucracy. But with no regional policy in place, its report pointed out that nearly everything about the Fund is still to be worked out, leaving huge unresolved issues:

  • How much funding will be available?
  • How will it be divided up across the UK?
  • What activities will be eligible for support?
  • Who will take the decisions about how the money is spent?

Discussing the Shared Prosperity Fund at the Scottish Rural parliament last October, North Ayrshire MP Philippa Whiteford pointed out that only 2 per cent of the fund was intended for the rural economy of the UK!

There is still no indication of what proportion of the fund will come to rural Scotland and less favoured areas such as the Highlands and Islands.

A new Scottish Rural Economy Framework 

The consultation supposed to take place in autumn 2018 for the SP fund to be in place by 2020 has yet to be done. There is now a huge worry that at the end of 2020, there will be a funding hiatus, with nothing in place to ensure a smooth transition from EU funds on which the rural economy depends.

However, a lot more thinking has been done in Scotland. Responding to consultation by the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee, Island Councils have unanymously asked that any future funding mechanisms revert back to giving more decision making powers to the regions themselves and the flexibility they feel has been lacking in the last allocation period. In many respondents’ opinion, the centralisation at Scottish government level occurring in the 2014-2020 period has had a negative effect, resulting in less funding uptake  then previously.

Consultation responses to Rural Thinks workshops by the National Council of Rural Advisers (NCRA),  have led to new ideas for a new rural economy framework that would ensure this much needed  transition to a throughly thought-out and appropriately designed  rural policy for Scotland that would support each of its regions appropriately.

3 policy recommendations 

The NCRA report –  a new blueprint for Scotland’s rural economy – outlines how a change in mindset, culture and structure is required and  has 3 recommendations for this to happen.

1/ a vibrant, sustainable and inclusive rural economy can only be achieved by recognising its strategic importance – and effectively mainstreaming it within all policy and decision-making processes.

2/   an interim Rural Economic Framework ( REF) should be developed, aligned to the National Performance Framework.

“The REF will provide a structure to enable transition, including the development and implementation of a new approach and delivery model for rural policy, development support and investment. We have the opportunity to remove the complexity and lack of understanding surrounding rural support by clearly linking it to the achievement of national outcomes: ensuring it is well understood, accepted and celebrated for improving national economic prosperity and wellbeing.”

3/ a Rural Economy Action Group ( REAG) should be created, which has the clout to get things done and set the tone for change. This would be “a mechanism by which we can hold each other to account and maintain the momentum.”

Targeted support for the rural economy

Action 4 of the new blue print is to look at targeted support and the development of credible finance models. Here are the actions recommended:

  • Scottish Centre for Inclusive Growth must assess the credibility of measurement tools for identifying small/micro business activity in the rural economy
  • Ensure equitable access to finance for rural communities and businesses, including a simplified grants system
  •  A Rural Challenge Fund for communities and small/micro-enterprises to be established in 2019, to ensure no hiatus in LEADER, EMFF and other Rural Development Programme funding
  • The National Investment Bank Strategy and Implementation Plan must consider the REF outcomes, ensuring an accessible offering for rural businesses, particularly small and micro-enterprises
  •  Inward investment plans must encourage sectoral diversity, recognising the opportunities for growth in non-traditional rural industries
  • Address the rural gender pay gap by providing female-focused enterprise programmes and support for women returning to the workforce
  •  Develop a strong and adequately financed policy and delivery framework to ensure a sustainable funding position post Brexit.

Read more about the  new rural economy framework

Read more about the shared prosperity fund  

Read more abouthe need for a future post Brexit regional policy.

Read more about of the CPMR’s analysis on losses to the UK regions through Brexit 

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