Do we have a UK Cohesion Policy equivalent to the EU Cohesion Policy?
No we haven’t, says S.I.F. Chair Camille Dressler, and there has been so far no evidence that any thought has been devoted to that part of EU policy which has been fundamental in ensuring island sustainable development throughout the EU. Are there any thought of developing an equivalent Policy? What happens to Article 174 of th Lisbon Treaty which underpins much of the principles that have informed the Cohesion Policy? Is that going to be repatriated? We fear it won’t as the UK government paid precious little attention to it when it was an integral part of the EU!
Post 2020 Cohesion Policy has been the subject of much discussion in the past few months at many different levels. Yet, unsurprisingly, there has been little about it in the media. So with this concern in mind, these are the questions we asked MPs Ian Blackford and Stephen Gethins, and now they want to discuss this further!
S.I.F. letter to MPs Ian Blackford and Stephen Gethins
In the context of the UK Brexit negociations, the Scottish Islands Federation is extremely concerned that the Joint Ministerial Committee approach agreed on by the UK Government has thus far produced no tangible results with regards to the differentiated solution proposed by the Scottish Government, which would have secured access to the Single Market for Scotland’s islands.
- Concerns about EU Cohesion policy.
Scottish Islands Federation’s members have expressed dismay and worry regarding the move away from the EU Cohesion Policy with its associated structural funds and the CAP for the islands.
We would therefore like to stress how important the EU Cohesion Policy has been for the islands. Its stated aim being to improve the economic well-being of regions in the EU and also to moderate regional disparities, it has been geared towards making regions more competitive, fostering economic growth and creating new jobs. It also has had an important role to play addressing important wider challenges such as climate change, sustainable energy supply and globalisation.
More than one third of the EU budget is currently devoted to this policy, which aims to remove economic, social and territorial disparities across the EU. Crucially, through Article 174 of the Lisbon Treaty, the policy recognizes inherent and permanent geographical challenges faced by islands.
With a GDP of 75 to 90% of the EU average, the Highlands and Islands have had ‘transitional region’ status. This has enabled the area to benefit from a whole suite of European funds targeted at social and community projects, infrastructure, businesses, partnerships and future proofing measures, including investment in renewable energy projects.
- CoR and EESC recommendations on islands issues
This spring, both the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee have published recommendations on the issues of island entrepreneurship and the situation of islands in the current and future EU regional policy post-2020.
Islands should be a particular focus of post-2020 cohesion policy, by adding islands as an additional category in the EU Regulation on territorial typologies
Set up a one-stop shop for the islands (“Island Desk”) within the DG REGIO at the European Commission
Establish a system of operating assistance for island businesses to offset higher transport costs, by updating guidelines on regional aid and the GBER
Set up a programme to stimulate innovation processes in island economies, make use of local resources, provide support for the use of renewable energies, handle waste, manage water, promote cultural and natural heritage, and establish a circular economy
All island regions and island Member States to be considered as less developed regions in post-2020 cohesion policy
Include insularity clauses in all key EU legislation, to take specific island circumstances into account
- Clean Energy EU islands declaration
Last May, the EU commission issued the Clean Energy EU islands declaration informed by the European Parliament’s resolution on the special situation of islands (2015/3014(RSP) stressing the European islands’ potential to contribute to strengthening sustainable development in the Union, which will promote and support tailor-made clean energy transitions for islands.
We are therefore very clear about what the islands of Scotland will miss out on through Brexit.
- Concerns regarding current approach to negotiations
In this context, we are seeking assurances and clarifications as to how the transition from EU funding to UK funding will be managed to safeguard the fragile economies of the islands and avoid real risks of depopulation, and what measures is the UK government prepared to take to mitigate the loss of opportunities currently being developed within the EU for the islands.
The response by Mr Davis to the differentiated solution proposed by the UK government leads to us to fear that such fundamental aspects of structural development policy, as represented by the EU territorial Cohesion Policy, are being ignored or side-lined through their rejection of Scotland’s proposed access to the Single Market.
This gives the Scottish Islands little confidence in the UK Government’s understanding of issues concerning the islands’ economic survival once EU funding will cease.
We would like in particular to seek clarity on if and how the recognition of the islands’ peripheral and fragile status by the Lisbon Treaty will be translated into UK law post-Brexit.
- Our questions:
We seek your response as to the following questions which we submit are fundamental to the continual growth and development of our island region post-Brexit:
- What policies if any will be put in place at UK and Scottish level to replace the Cohesion Policy framework
- If such policies are to be established, how would the necessary Structural Funds be established and at what level would they be administered?
- How would Scotland feed into that process? How would the communities most affected be engaged to support development of policies behind the funds?
- How can existing levels of funding be protected?
- What measures are the UK Government prepared to take to ensure that cooperation with other EU island regions can continue?
- How can the UK government protect unique geographical origins and protected names, such as Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb? What about Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), which are of such importance for the islands?
- What assurance can the UK Government give that any new policy framework for Scottish farmers and crofters (direct payments and rural development measures) will be adequately funded and will take into consideration the special situation of island agriculture?
- How is the UK Government planning to ensure that environmental protection which is crucial to the sensitive and fragile environment of Scotland’s islands will be continued?
- What about the 2020 goals and commitments to lowering carbon consumption, notably through production of renewable energy?
- We are concerned that the Scottish islands lead in renewable energy production may be further eroded and hampered as shown already by the lack of support for the shovel ready projects of Remote Island Wind in the Northern and Western Isles.
We look forward to receiving your response on how you as an MP will seek to mitigate the effects of a move away from the EU Territorial Cohesion policy. This would have the potential to starve the islands of crucial economic and social support, jeopardize their fragile and precious environment and hamper their development and aspirations for decades to come.
Furthermore, we welcome any queries or discussions you may wish to undertake with us to ensure the success of future policies, which will directly affect the Scottish island regions as well as other islands in the UK.