S.I.F. at the European Rural Parliament 2019

S.I.F. at the European Rural parliament 2019

by Camille Dressler, S.I.F. Chair

The 4th European Rural Parliament took place in Candas, Asturias in Spain on November 6-9, 2019. The host for the 4th ERP was READER, the Asturian Rural Development Network and their partners. It was a great event altogether, bringing  335 participants  from 38 countries. This year, it was combined with the Youth Rural parliament who brought extra zest to the proceedings!

The topic of this ERP was the relationship between rural and urban areas, but representing ESIN, the European Small Islands Federation which has newly joined the ERP partnership, as well as S.I.F.  I was tasked to talk about islands, and chose to concentrate on what is happening in terms of island revival in Scotland, using the example of Eigg to introduce the signs of a welcome return of younger people and families, facilitated by the help provided by Scottish Community Empowerment legislation.

As a result, Eigg  may well look forward to a visit from Alex from Belarus, as  he and other folks wanted to get ideas of how to rehabilitate the devalued concept of  communities in post soviet countries.  A chapter about Eigg also featured in the book “Europe on the move, ” launched at the ERP, a collection of stories from all corners of Europe over the 25 years of the existence of the transformative network Forum Synergies, which in an earlier incarnation had helped the inhabitants of Eigg on their journey to self-determination! You could say the island was well signposted!

  

 “Actions by civil society actors can have a crucial role in enhancing wellbeing”

ERPs are places where you meet meet really interesting people like Bill Slee of the Hutton Institute, now retired and working for the SIMRA project: Social innovations in Marginalised Rural Areas – Their booklet included the story of Community Energy in Orkney and Tacsi’s social care success in Uist,  alongside other great  rural European innovators and it was great to see the Scottish Islands so prominently featured.!

Here is what Bill says about social innovation “Creating new formal and informal institutions in civil society may be critical in developing effective responses to contemporary challenges in rural Europe.  Where markets are weak and national and local government has limited resources, actions by civil society actors can have a crucial role in enhancing wellbeing.  But what makes an effective civil society organisation, a charitable trust or an NGO effective?  Why can they operate more efficiently than the state or the market?  What are the limits to their reach? Building collaborative possibilities and creating social capital through new institutions lies at the heart of social innovation.  But policy can help and in somewhere like Scotland policies for community empowerment have contributed hugely to enhancing the opportunities.  Sometimes we need to combine policy innovation, social innovation and technical innovation to deliver improvements. But we need to focus not only on smart villages, but on making the less smart, smarter.” concluded Bill.

Smart Villages, smart islands

Another interest was the topic of Smart Villages which was discussed widely in the workshops, including ours:  Smart islands/ Smart villages. In this  workshop,  we compared strategies to ensure better, more sustainable lives and discussed how we could all learn from the Smart Islands initiative.  We learnt about innovative social care ideas in areas of Spain that find themselves very isolated: in villages of Zaragoza, older people are all given a mobile phone to enable them to be contacted and to contact help if needed.

The Smart Villages programme is the current sub-theme of the broader European Network for Rural Development ( ENRD) thematic work on ‘Smart and Competitive Rural Areas’.  With a 10 billion euros budget, this is an ambitious programme, and for us in Scotland, it might be a good idea to engage – before it is too late – with Smart Villages Scotland.

Going round the ERP market place situated in Candas’ former sardine factory decorated with the portraits of all former factory workers, it was great to explore all the different produces brought by delegates and exchange smart ideas….

Climate Emergency

As always, it is impossible to see everything and attend everything, but one workshop I really enjoyed attending was delivered by ECOLISE.

Francesca and Davie, the two ECOLISE co-presidents,  told participants that the challenge of transitioning to a Low Carbon Climate Resilient Society requires not just action at national and international levels but, most importantly, it requires ongoing, long-term, deep engagement at local community level. Our worskhop’s tasks was to reflect who we needed to involve and how,  to effect that transformative change.

Community led initiatives across Europe and elsewhere are actively envisioning creating and living within alternatives that are rooted within sustainability equality and social justice. These initiatives must be supported and become the basis of a new normal if Europe is to achieve its ambitious targets on climate action and sustainability,” said Francesca, who also made a great speech at the plenary.

Davie presented the inspiring case study of community-led action in Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, Ireland, where the ecovillage and wider community is modelling a resilient and low-carbon society. (He did inspire me to visit, and I did a week later after finishing my Galway Smart islands training.  Plans are now afoot to invite Davie to Scotland …)

Meeting old friends! 

It was also great to meet again with Omar and Vigfus from Iceland, with whom I had a great exchange in Venhorst at the 3rd ERP in Holland. A retired actor in his 80’s, Omar is composing and singing songs about the dire state of the Earth and presented at the ERP the film he made travelling through Iceland on his bike: with the ice cap melting, his country is now seeing  a worrying increase in volcanic activity and lava eruption. As to Vigfus, he is proposing for Grimsay in Iceland to link up with Grimsay in Scotland, a great idea!

 

Fantastic hospitality rooted in  strong traditions. 

Music, songs, bagpipes, cider uniquely poured from a height – more than 500 apple varieries are grown in Asturias – often drunk whilst eating roasted chestnusts as we were offered with the espichas, the gastronomic feast of many Asturian tapas, all this truly gave all us a taste of this fascinating rural area which had to do much to re-invent itself after the closure of its mines and canning factories.

We also got a feel for the strength of the wind on the Cantabrian coast as storms abated on the Bay of Biscay  and gained  a real appreciation for the Asturias mountains traditions. These are very much alive, although at risk through abandonment of isolated hamlets and villages, but initiatives such as the Pro-biodiversity quality mark for mountain lamb have proved to be a game changer. There was much to learn in too short a time but Asturias has charmed us:  we all promised to come back.

  

The ERP 2019 call to action

The event, discussions, workshops, all this effervescent activity now needs to translate into pressure on decision makers at EU level to ensure Rural Europe is taken into consideration in all areas of policy making.  “We see the dominating urban and growth agendas combined with the disconnection between local people and decision-makers as a threat to rural life. A real rural agenda combined with inclusive cooperation and partnerships at all levels is needed to ensure rural Europe to thrive. ” clearly states the 4th ERP final declaration.

Speaking to the 4th ERP, Mihail Dumitru, Deputy Director General of DG Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission, supported the value of the ERP in bringing together so many countries and people across Europe with a common passion for the maintenance of our rural territories.

The new Commission for 2019-2024 is tasked with “developing a new long-term vision for rural areas and ensuring that the needs of rural areas are specifically catered for in national Strategic Plans under the new CAP”

The ERP partners will now work to ensure that the voices and messages of the 4th ERP Gathering will be heard in the corridors of power in Brussels and also in the national governments across Europe.

Rural People’s Declaration of Candás Asturias

9 th November 2019

We, 335 participants from 38 European countries, met during the 4th European Rural Parliament at the village of Candás Asturias, Spain, from 6 to 9 November 2019. Participants included rural people, representatives of civil society organisations, researchers, national governments and European Union institutions. We see the dominating urban and growth agendas combined with the disconnection between local people and decision-makers as a threat to rural life. A real rural agenda combined with inclusive cooperation and partnerships at all levels is needed to ensure rural Europe to thrive.

We, the rural people of Europe

• demand that rural is considered equal to urban in minds and practice;

• expect the right to choose where we live and work;

• call on governments to recognise and appreciate the value of rural volunteering, community life, entrepreneurship and natural resources;

• ask politicians to accept rural people, communities, entrepreneurs and municipalities as partners;

• request that the voice of rural people is heard in policy and consultative processes;

• insist poverty and social exclusion are addressed;

• ask governments and decision-makers to ensure that services are as close as possible to rural people to avoid security risks and loss of time/money;

• are ready to contribute with local service solutions and economic initiatives;

• welcome a real rural development policy for villages, communities and small towns;

• support smart, community-friendly initiatives and programmes like LEADER/CLLD and ERASMUS but demand that the regulation and administration of these programmes is simplified;

• require flexible working conditions and opportunities with effective support systems;

• ask for real, meaningful and engaging civil society participation in designing and delivering European programmes;

• encourage and support all forms of cooperation between local actors, including contractual solutions, project-based activities and multi-level partnerships of public, private and civil society actors;

• want to cooperate with local established structures and stakeholders including LEADER groups, Village/Community NGOs, development partnerships and local authorities.

2019 S.I.F Learning Exchange & AGM on Grimsay

1 to 4 October, Grimsay

This year our learning exchange is to Grimsay and we are delighted to be working in partnership with and hosted by CoDeL (Community Development Lense) and Grimsay Community Association.

Population decline and in particular, young people moving away, is as an enormous challenge for many small islands but while in Tiree for our 2018 learning exchange we heard about the young returners to Uist from Thomas and Theona of CoDeL. Over our two days in Grimsay we will learn more about the experience from Uist (and further afield) and its working examples of community-led activity that is contributing to population growth and in particular, investing in and supporting young people.

With the first National Islands Plan soon to be launched we will discuss its implementation and monitoring as well as some policy areas where input is needed to ensure island proofing.

Our S.I.F AGM and EGM and a short wrap up session to agree priorities for the year ahead are planned for 5.30pm on Thursday 3rd October at Grimsay Community Centre.

The learning exchange is running in conjunction with CoDeL’s SMART Islands in Scotland & Ireland: Supporting Enterprises & Young People Project and we very much look forward to sharing island perspectives and ideas with participants from the Irish islands.

We are enormously grateful to the Community Learning Exchange, Scottish Government and LEADER for the contributions that have made the learning exchange possible and enabled members to take part.

Smart Islands and S.I.F full programme

S.I.F Day 1

S.I.F Day 2

Successful Island Plan Consultation!

Island Plan consultation successfully concluded!

First ever island community consultation

Over 1,000 people have contributed to the development of Scotland’s first National Islands Plan through 60 community consultation events on 46 islands.
The Island Plan team travelled by ferries, planes or small boat charter to reach as many island communities in the six island regions of Scotland in just over 3 months. Amazingly only one flight got cancelled through foggy conditions in Orkney!
    
The team met with community groups, Development Trusts Community Councils,  High schools and Primary schools, and even secured the services of an artist to capture the discussions which focussed on what works well in their communities as well as on the challenges they face – such as population retention, economic development, housing, health, environment, transport and digital connectivity.
Sessions lasted about 2 hours, following a methodology tried and tested at the Scottish Rural Parliament, and required the magic ingredients of tea, coffee and cake!

What the minister says:

Commenting on the consultation progress while visiting the Slate Islands of Easdale, Seil and Luing, as part of a programme of island visits last June, Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse said:Last year, the passage of the first ever Act of Parliament aimed specifically at islanders’ needs and the positive contributions made to Scotland by our islands, marked an historic milestone for our islands communities.

We are steadily implementing the provisions of the Act and I am therefore delighted to see so many island residents, and others with an interest in our islands, sharing their views, hopes and aspirations for the future for our islands communities during the consultation on Scotland’s first ever National Islands Plan.

“The consultation, including events that I have been able to see during my visits this week, is ensuring we discuss challenges, learn lessons from policy successes that have been achieved across island communities, and identify factors that contribute to good policy outcomes. The evidence we are gathering will help us to better target public resources to help our islands, with the objective of enabling all who live on our islands to flourish.”

This has been an unprecedented exercise in listening to Scotland’s islanders and it is my sincere hope that this important consultation helps us to project islanders’ voices to Scotland’s policy makers and public bodies and harness the undoubted strengths and resources of islands communities, with the objective of providing the brightest, most sustainable future for our islands communities that, in so many ways, constitute the very best of Scotland.”

Online responses echo community views

360 responses have also been submitted online, by individuals and organisations such as  NFU Scotland. Here is what Lucy Sumsion, NFU’s Argyll and the Islands regional manager has to say: “ Our response set out that the main objective should be to make the islands socially and economically viable places to live and work  for islanders. This include shaping an environment that allows farming and crofting to prosper, and underpin vibrant wider economy that enjoys the same levels of services as the remainder of Scotland.” Her comment certainly echoes the aspirations of many islanders.

Community Impact assessment: a key measure

One of the key measures in the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 is to require everyone who makes or designs new polices, strategies or services to consider how these will impact on islands.

Island Communities Impact Assessments will be one way in which relevant authorities can consider the impact of these polices, strategies or services on islands.

The consultation will also provide input to develop guidance  on how these impact assessments will operate. “This was perhaps the most complex aspect of the consultation, but our island communities have not shied away from the challenge of providing an informed response,” reports Sandy Brunton, who led the community consultation process.

We are very proud of the way island community leaders have responded to this challenge so constructively,  going out of their way to ensure good event participation,” said Camille Dressler, who chairs the the Scottish Islands Federation, one of the partner organisations in the National Island Plan consultation together with the Scottish Government and the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance , “ I now have to give all our thanks to Ann MacDonald, our S.I.F director from Tiree, who has masterfully handled the consultation logistics. She has done us proud and helped immensely by providing a blueprint for future island consultation!

Results expected in October 2019

The National Island Team will now get to work to collate the community and online responses over August and September, and aims to present a first draft of the National Island Plan in early October 2019.

There still is time to send your own response – until midnight – by clicking here! 

Future Rural Policy and Support in Scotland: the view from LINK

Future Rural Policy and Support in Scotland: the view from Scottish Environment LINK

LINK Parliamentary Briefing January 2019

Summary

  • This briefing sets out the views of Scottish Environment LINK members for a new, comprehensive and forward-looking process for developing future rural policy and support in Scotland. Any new policy framework should be based on 10 principles, set out in the latter half of this briefing.
  • Scottish Environment LINK members want to see a firm commitment to a robust, well-resourced, transparent and representative process to develop future rural policy and support for Scotland, resulting in a blueprint for policy post-2024.
  • LINK members welcome the motion’s reference to “conven[ing] a group consisting of producer, consumer and environmental organisations to inform and recommend a new bespoke policy on farming and food production for Scotland” as a step in the right direction.

NB -S.I.F.: the motion referred to is Future Rural Policy and Support in Scotland’  presented by Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/01/2019, Supported by Mairi Gougeon

Motion S5M-15279:

That the Parliament acknowledges that future policy for Scotland’s rural economy should be founded on key principles, including sustainability, simplicity, innovation, inclusion, productivity and profitability; recognises that it should seek to maintain flourishing communities, enable farmers and crofters to continue to deliver high-quality goods and services through food production and stewardship of the countryside and Scotland’s natural assets, and encourage diverse land use; calls on the UK Government to deliver a fair allocation of future rural funds to Scotland, including fully replacing all lost EU funding, that will allow development and implementation of a funding support scheme that meets rural Scotland’s needs and interests; further calls on the Scottish Government to convene a group consisting of producer, consumer and environmental organisations to inform and recommend a new bespoke policy on farming and food production for Scotland, and agrees that the Parliament should legislate for future rural policy. 

Context:

Since the EU referendum vote in 2016, a number of parallel groups were formed with different remits:

  • The National Council of Rural Advisors was formed to ‘provide evidence based advice to Scottish Ministers on the implications of Scotland leaving the EU, and to recommend future actions that could sustain a vibrant and flourishing rural economy’;
  • The Agriculture Champions aimed to ‘advise on the development of a strategy for the sector’;
  • The CAP Greening Group chaired by Professor Russell Griggs was tasked to ‘to produce a way forward for greening within the context of the current Common Agriculture Policy and beyond’; and
  • The Simplification Task Force is currently ‘advising on simplifications that could be made to the Common Agricultural Policy’.

Some useful and agreeable recommendations have come from the final reports of the Agriculture Champions, the National Council of Rural Advisors, and the Greening Group. However, despite this number of groups, none have had the representation, transparency, longevity and resources to develop a blueprint for post-Brexit agricultural policy and support, to provide a way forward for Scottish Government and the rural sector.

Next steps for Future Rural Policy and Support in Scotland:

Building on the recommendations made by the above groups, and in parallel to the Simplification Task Force which will focus on sensible changes in the short term, LINK members believe that we need one overarching process, which will firmly set out a recommended way forward for rural policy and support.

LINK members call on Scottish Government to set up a process to research, consult on and design a system of farm support which:

  • helps to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, which Scotland was among the first nations to endorse,and on the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework;
  • meets public policy objectives on the production of healthy food, the provision of a range of public goods, and onthe social cohesion of vulnerable rural areas
  • assists generational renewal and short food chains;is deliverable, equitable (taking into account disadvantages of geography, scale, tenure), auditable and evaluable;
  • ensures that future schemes are designed and delivered so they are understandable and accessible to beneficiaries whilst delivering effectively in the public interest; and
  • is based on the 10 principles outlined below.

This process should be transparent, well-resourced and draw on the expertise and data held by the key research institutes, commissioning specific reports and impact assessments where needed.

The process should be broad and inclusive across the range of public policy objectives on which future rural support will need to deliver. Its work should be supported by a dedicated secretariat provided by Government. The process should result in a blueprint for Scotland’s rural policy and support post-2024, collating and identifying how this new framework will deliver on our public policy objectives that are influenced by the rural sector.

10 Principles for Future Rural Policy:

On 26 September 2018, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing proposed holding a debate in Scottish Parliament to establish the principles that will underpin Scotland’s future farm policy.

LINK welcomes this intention and proposes 10 principles that should underpin future policy and funding development and form the basis for the blueprint developed through the process recommended above.

These principles are at the centre of LINK’s vision for a thriving countryside where:

  • all land managers help to enhance landscapes and biodiversity and where a clean, healthy and wildlife rich environment is regarded both as an asset to society and essential for underpinning economic activity such as farming and forestry;
  • land is adaptable and resilient to climate change, and is used and managed in ways that contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation more broadly;
  • people live, and work and rural communities are sustained, with opportunities for young people to work and manage the land, and where new entrants to traditional sectors are encouraged and supported;
  • a broad range of land use and rural business activities offer good livelihoods and employment opportunities. Those who manage the land secure a fair return from it, whether producing traditional products such as food andtimber or delivering public goods;
  • food production is part of a fair, healthy and sustainable food system, from farm to fork, and plays its part in becoming a Good Food Nation
  • the full range of ecosystem services land provides are recognised and valued for their contribution to our economy and to society;
  • land is used and managed in more integrated ways to deliver multiple outputs and benefits wherever possible.

LINK’s 10 Principles for Future Land Management Support in Scotland are: Policy design and delivery must start from an assessment of the environmental, social and economic needs that policy must address. It must draw on rigorous and independent evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the current support regime under the CAP (effectiveness and efficiency). The likely environmental, social and economic impacts (benefits and costs) of proposals for future policies and payments should be modelled and assessed before final decisions are taken.

Principle 1: Evidence-based. The development of future rural and land use support is evidence based.

Policy design and delivery must start from an assessment of the environmental, social and economic needs that policy must address. It must draw on rigorous and independent evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the current support regime under the CAP (effectiveness and efficiency). The likely environmental, social and economic impacts (benefits and costs) of proposals for future policies and payments should be modelled and assessed before final decisions are taken.

Principle 2: Regulation plus. Future payments and policies go above and beyond the regulatory baseline, with at least the current standards maintained and enforced; EU environmental principles are applied, as appropriate.

A wide range of legislation relevant to agriculture – environmental, animal welfare, food safety and employment – is already in force. This is designed to protect the public interest and it must be effectively implemented and enforced. Compliance with regulation by farmers, crofters and other land managers must be a pre-requisite for the receipt of any public funding; any incentives, grants or other payments must deliver additional benefit beyond the baseline standards achieved by regulation. Where universal compliance with new measures is deemed necessary, new regulation should be considered, especially where this relates to key environmental principles. Regulation can be a most effective and equitable way to deliver public goods.

Principle 3: Outcomes focused. All future rural and land use support must contribute to the delivery of defined outcomes, in line with international and domestic aspirations.

Under the current system of land management support, the purpose and desired outcomes for many financial support mechanisms is unclear or poorly specified. Direct payments are paid based on land area and have no correlation with income needs.

In future, the outcomes which land management payments are intended to help deliver on a national level must be clearly defined and set out in a policy coherent way. These outcomes should be drawn from international obligations such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals or the 2020 Aichi targets for biodiversity, domestic ambitions captured in the National Performance Framework and policies such as the Land Use Strategy and the Climate Change Plan. Existing and future international agreements and commitments should continue to be a baseline for the identification of outcomes and priorities; this should be reflected in the rationale for financial support down to the holding level.

An outcomes focused approach will help identify which instruments and approaches are best suited to deliver desired outcomes, including indicators to measure progress. For example, while regulation may be better suited to achieve certain results (e.g. enhance water quality), in other situations, supporting short supply chains or facilitating collaboration may be the most appropriate instrument (e.g. for supporting remote rural communities).

Rigorous audits to identify outcome delivery would also need to be supported to ensure funding mechanisms and financial support is well targeted.

Principle 4: Public money for public goods. Ongoing financial support for agriculture, forestry and other rural land use is based primarily on a principle of public money for public goods.

The strongest justification for using public funding to support farming, crofting and forestry is that these activities can produce a wide range of environmental and social goods and services (public goods) that are not rewarded through markets.

Support to land managers should therefore be tailored accordingly.

The main public goods provided by land management are biodiversity, landscape enhancement, public access, high water quality, air and soil, a stable climate and resilience to flooding. Environmental land management schemes and support for agro-ecological farming systems, including organic and support for High Nature Value farming and crofting, should be the main incentive mechanisms.

In addition to financial support for the delivery of public goods, there is also a case for financial support to facilitate change. Public funding in the form of grants and loans is also justified to support business investment in productivity and resource use efficiency (decoupling production), adaptation and development. Such investments could help improve environmental performance, support diversification, invest in supply chain i

nfrastructure, develop new income streams or improve business efficiency. Funding could be available for purchasing machinery, IT or physical infrastructure, amongst other things, where this offers good value for public money. There may also be scope for other financial mechanisms such as tax breaks to play a role here.

Similarly, supporting investments in research, knowledge transfer, advice and training is another way in which public funds can be utilised. Public funding should support knowledge transfer, advice and training including continuing professional development. This should build on the significant investment of public funds in agricultural, forest and other land use research and do more to ensure the results of this reaches those who could benefit most from it. Low levels of formal education and training in the land use sectors need to be addressed.

Principle 5: Business-based and plan-led. Financial support goes to businesses or groups of businesses in return for undertaking specific activities.

Financial support is not an entitlement that comes with a specific area of land. Applications for financial support are based on plans from businesses or groups of businesses showing what will be delivered as a result of the financial support. The timescale over which support is provided reflects the purpose of that support. Most applications for environmental activity funding will be multiannual.

Principle 6: Knowledge-based sector. Investing in and upskilling an enhanced advisory service, alongside. professional development, is vital to help support the sector as we transition to a new system fit for the 21st century.

Support for training, advice and collaboration should be a serious focus for future policy. Currently, our advisory service lacks capacity and consistency of training on environmental management to robustly support the delivery of public goods. Investing in and upskilling an enhanced advisory service is vital to help support the sector through this period of change as we transition to a new system fit for the 21st century. An enhanced advisory service will create a knowledge-based sector, where expertise is sought and shared to ensure that best practice is continuously implemented.

In addition, currently only 27% of farmers in Scotland have any formal agricultural training2. This is very low for a sector that needs increasingly to embrace innovation and new technologies, be more market orientated and adopt greener farming methods. Much higher rates are likely to be required if the sector as a whole is to undergo transformational change. It is also vital that land management courses at Further and Higher Education level include environmental content and promote agroecological principles within all modules rather than as optional dedicated modules. Continuing Professional Development should become the norm for those working in the farming and land use sectors and be a requirement for receiving public money.

Principle 7: Transparency and accountability. All farm and rural support payments will be transparent and accountable, with information regarding beneficiaries and the amounts received being in the public domain and freely available.

Funding for farming and rural areas is likely to be under increasing public scrutiny in future given demands on public finances. How such money is used should be subject to audit. Information on who receives support, for what purpose and the amount, should be published annually on the Scottish Government website.

Principle 8: Access and equity. Payments and support measures will be accessible to all land managers subject to rules and eligibility criteria.

A tiered system of support including public goods, business adaptation, development support, and measures supporting knowledge transfer, advice and training should be accessible to all farmers, crofters, foresters and other land managers – including those managing less than 3 hectares – subject to defined rules and eligibility criteria.

The rates of payment for delivering public goods may vary to reflect the variable costs incurred, for example by smaller businesses or businesses operating in remote areas. The rates of intervention to support investments in productivity efficiency, innovation and business support may vary to reflect the ability of businesses to fund these investments from their own resources.

Principle 9: Flexibility and differentiation. Delivery models for future funding mechanisms are regionally tailored, flexible and plan-led.

Funding is tailored to regional circumstances and farming and land management systems, with jointly agreed regional land use frameworks setting priorities for public support and investments.

A degree of flexibility should be allowed in how funding is applied at business level, contingent on the desired outcomes being met. Such flexibility should be facilitated by the adoption of a plan-led approach whereby each business completes a holding-level land management plan setting out objectives, intended outcomes and which funding mechanisms and funding are required to meet them.

There should be flexibility, particularly in remote and island areas where there is a demonstrable social or environmental need to continue farming land which cannot yield an economic return, to agree bespoke land management contracts which provide a sustainable livelihood.

Principle 10: Monitoring and evaluation. The impacts and outcomes of financial support will be regularly monitored and evaluated, and the results used to inform future policy development.

Looking at existing policy, the monitoring of current policies and funding under the CAP and evaluation of their impacts and outcomes – especially in relation to Pillar I payments – is poor. This must be addressed in future. Sufficient funding must be allocated to carry out effective monitoring and evaluation for all future financial support, including establishing baseline data, assessing impacts and outcomes and reporting on progress. Such monitoring and evaluation will provide an evidence base to improve performance and inform further policy development.

This LINK Parliamentary Briefing is supported by the following member organisations: Buglife Scotland; Butterfly Conservation Scotland; Nourish  Scotland; RamblersScotland;  RSPBScotland ScotFWAG; WWF Scotland

Scottish Environment LINK is the forum for Scotland’s voluntary environment organisations, with over 35 member bodies representing a range of environmental interests with the common goal of contributing to a more environmentally sustainable society.

For more information on the above, contact: Pete Ritchie, Leader of the LINK Food and Farming Subgroup: pete@nourishscotland.org.uk or Daphne Vlastari, LINK Advocacy Manager: daphne@scotlink.org, 0131 225 43 45 www.savescottishseas.org

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

What matters most to the Islands – the S.I.F. Survey results

Scotland’s Island Communities: Meeting the Challenges

A survey by the Scottish Islands Federation

August 2016

  1. Foreword

Almost 80% of the UK’s inhabited islands are found in Scotland. There are 93 and they stretch from North Ayrshire, Argyll and Bute, Highland, to the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland. An asset to Scotland and with enormous potential the islands are often held back by a range of challenges, some in common with the rest of rural Scotland and some intrinsic to their small island situation.

We wanted to capture the current thinking from island communities themselves about the main issues affecting them and how they have responded or could respond.

The survey is the beginning of a process that will be used primarily as a foundation on which the work of S.I.F. will be based. It provides a valid resource which has been endorsed by the participants and we would like to thank the 72 groups that took part and all the networks that helped to promote it.

  1. Methodology & sample

A survey was circulated to all the community councils, development trusts , community companies and trusts that we could find contact details for – we aimed to reach the islands with a population of 10 or more (63 islands). A total of 72 responses were received reaching 34 of the 63 islands and giving coverage of 54%.

Figure 1. Islands & survey responses

Local Authority Inhabited islands Total population Islands with pop of 10 or more No of survey responses
Argyll & Bute 23 15,105 15 25
North Ayrshire 3 6,036 2 1
Highland 14 10,349 6 15
Eilean Siar 14 27,684 11 16
Orkney 21 21,349 15 10
Shetland 16 23,167 14 3
  1. The islands – population

The islands have a combined population of 103,000 and while the overall population grew by 4% between 2001 and 2011, 32% of the islands showed a population decline. The majority of these were amongst the smaller islands with populations less than 50[1].

A similar picture from our survey; 34% felt the population was declining and the majority of these were the smaller islands.

The real concern highlighted was the shifting demographics with population becoming increasingly skewed towards older people.

Population change and demographics: 

Growing 34%  Declining 34% Stable 31%

Balanced age group 28% /  Ageing 72%

  1. The biggest challenges

Using a list of common challenges[2] that hinder island development and sustainability people were asked to attach a level of importance to each. Here are the issues listed in %  of importance.

  • Employment 43%
  • Broadband coverage 40%
  • Transport links 39%
  • Availability of affordable housing  34%
  • Freight/carriage  31%
  • higher cost of living 30%
  • Limited voice in  local national 29%
  • Small population/population 28%
  • access to social and elderly care 27%
  • access to health care 26%
  • Mobile coverage 26%
  • Access to local services 24%
  • transport costs 23%
  • Access to primary /secondary school 18%
  • Access to further education 16%
  • Availability of land or crofts 15%

Many of these challenges are interconnected and it became clear that they are all considered important. This feedback is closely aligned with the draft Manifesto for Rural Scotland[3] which, based on the collective views of a much larger representation of rural communities, includes each of these challenges as needs that must be addressed.

Each island has its own unique circumstances and theses are reflected in how the challenges were prioritised:

Figure 4. The top 5 per region in order of priority

Argyll & Bute Highland Eilean Siar Orkney Shetland N Ayrshire
Transport Health care Employment Broadband Sample too small Sample too small
Broadband Housing Broadband Employment
Employment Employment Freight Transport
Housing Elderly/Social care Voice Small pop
Freight Voice Housing Elderly/Social care
  1. What could make the most difference?

Consideration was given to the opportunities that could make a difference to the sustainability of island communities:

  • Digital connectivity: 39%
  • Affordable housing 37%
  • Transport 33%
  • Community land asset ownership 28%
  • Business and enterprise 25%
  • health and social care 25%
  • Marine development 25%
  • Food and agriculture 25%
  • Renewables 21%
  • tourism development 20%
  • heritage and culture 19%
  • Energy efficiency 14%

Amongst the top issues are broadband and transport. These were also highlighted at the recent EU Committee of the Regions Conference in Shetland which S.I.F. attended.

‘One of the key issues of the seminar was connection to high-speed broadband, while transport and an ageing population were also highlighted’[4].

  1. The islands – voice and local leadership

The majority of island communities that took part in the survey have a local plan in place. Some have already made great strides in tackling barriers. 47% owned assets and were able to generate some income for local reinvestment.

Island communities themselves are best placed to understand the barriers and solutions and also have the potential to become key drivers in island sustainable development. However, many felt that the support, investment and voice needed for this to happen on a larger scale, isn’t currently there. This is a point endorsed by the Scottish Community Alliance in its report ‘Local People Leading’ which calls for a much stronger community sector.

Communities themselves are often not engaged in the decision making that affects them. Only 36% answered our question on engagement in key consultations.

Some of the obstacles

‘Lack of income means we cannot employ labour so everything has to be done by volunteers.’

‘Funding and access to expertise to progress our priorities.’

‘Volunteer fatigue, staff support, no secure income at present’

‘Planning and other centralised decision making processes do not allow for the individual island view to be taken fully into consideration’.

‘Rural environments suffer at the expense of regional towns and cities, for example, Inverness’.

  • 54% listed a lack of funding and/or the burden placed on volunteers as obstacles that hinder their effectiveness and sustainability.
  • The survey highlighted that some communities sense that support, investment and decision making is becoming more centralised making it increasingly difficult to develop good jobs, housing, services, infrastructure and enterprise in the remote areas.
  • The survey also suggests that communities themselves are often not engaged in the decision making that affects them – responses indicate that only 36% of the communities that took park in the survey have responded to key consultations affecting the islands.

Percentage of respondents engaged in recent consultations.

  • transport review 23%
  • Islands Bill 21%
  • National Marine Plan 10%

These issues around community empowerment, support and engagement are echoed by communities across Scotland and are highlighted by the Scottish Community Alliance[5] in its report ‘Local People Leading’.

This remoteness from decision-making is exacerbated by island geography and governance and is felt by small islands across Europe. The European Small Islands Federation (ESIN)[6] is championing the case for developing new ‘island sustainability indicators’ to rectify the lack of support and investment allocated to small islands as a result of their current ‘invisibility’ at EU level.

  1. Working together

The survey indicated a desire for networking events, regular island newsletter, project visits and an annual island event. Topics of interest are prioritised below:

Topics of most interest for networking and information exchange

  • Transport 62%
  • Renewables 59%
  • Affordable housing: 57%
  • Tourism 49%
  • Heritage and culture 40%
  • Health and Social care 36%
  • Marine development 36%
  • Sustainable fishing 23%
  1. Conclusions

Using the survey as a starting point our aim was to gather the views of island communities themselves about the main issues affecting the islands and how they could be overcome. 72 groups from across 34 individual islands took part and their feedback indicates the following:

  1. There is an urgent need to find ways of encouraging more young people to live on the islands as well as better ways of looking after an increasingly ageing population.

2 . A common list of challenges hinder island development and sustainability. The top four are felt to be:

Employment Broadband Transport Affordable Housing

3. Some of these challenges are in common with the rest of rural Scotland, some are unique to the islands and some are more keenly felt on the islands due to their unique circumstances: there is a need to understand the small island situation better and recognise that it is different.

4. Opportunities reflect the obstacles and the findings call for strategic action on all the big issues, the top three being:

Broadband Affordable Housing Transport

5. Island communities themselves are best placed to understand the barriers and solutions and also have the potential to become key drivers in local sustainable development: there is a need for a stronger voice for island communities, more engagement in decision making and more local governance.

6. There is an appetite for communities to work together across the islands to share ideas and learn from each other.

  1. Next steps

S.I.F. is the only organisation in Scotland with an island-specific remit and we work to promote, publicise and advance the interests of Scotland’s islands.

Using the survey feedback as the foundation S.I.F. has identified the following objectives to take forward:

  • Promoting innovative sustainable projects and inter-island collaboration.
  • Building a representative voice on matters specific to the islands
  • Using that voice to inform and influence policy at all levels of government.
  • Connecting island communities to share experience, ideas and expertise.

We will take forward actions in our strategy to deliver these objectives in the next year.

Kirsty MacColl

Development Officer

Scottish Islands Federation

kirsty@scottish-islands-federation.co.uk

www.scottish-islands-federation.co.uk

Appendix

Comments from the communities that took part in the survey:

Planning and other centralised decision making processes do not allow for the individual island view to be taken fully into consideration. An island is treated in the same way as another area of mainland without appropriate autonomy and local input

We only have a doctor on the island 2 hours a week and otherwise have to go 6 miles on the next island to the surgery. Currently this has been a locum filled position for almost a year.

In the usual way, Government displays a lack of understanding of the implications of island living, with the debacle of the Calmac ferry service as a prime example. Argyll & Bute Council cuts and the resultant service reductions sees a decline in the overall infrastructure of the island. This despite the fact that 8 distilleries make an enormous contribution to the revenue which increases year-on-year.

Improved local democracy. Islands in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland have their own councils. Islay is part of Argyll & Bute the local authority and feels very much on the edge of their decision making and governance. Islay does not have its own councillor but a part of three, currently one councillor lives on Islay but does not solely represent the island. There is a large disconnect between council officials (off the island) and local population. Transport links are paramount for Islay to operate from population, tourism and industry (farming as well as whisky). The service currently received from CalMac does not meet the island’s needs and is impacting negatively on all these areas. Without a robust ferry service and booking system tourists may decide not to visit. The calculation for the roads budget is determined by the population and takes no account of the heavy lorries required by the whisky industry or agriculture.

Due to a lack of affordable housing, many young people leave the island (or are unable to return once having completed uni etc). As a result we have a limited work force on the island and a reduced skill pool.

All of the above are extremely important to island’s future growth and sustainability

Ageing population and population decline with so many problems preventing regeneration with new jobs, housing and poor transport links mean that we are fighting a losing battle at present. the opening of the Atlantic Islands Centre is beginning to make a difference – low-level and part-time jobs. Loss of the Postbus 3 years ago means there is no public transport for the 3 mile run from each village to the ferry. Ferry service is reasonable, but not conducive to attracting families in an age when teenagers need access to activities after school in the evenings.

Many of these issues are interlinked, or there’s at least some sort of chicken/egg scenario. Especially with housing and employment, you can’t employ people if there isn’t suitable housing in the area, and if there isn’t enough housing, people will be driven away limiting job creation and business opportunities. Most of our islands do not boast a high availability of private rented sector housing. The tourist season and self-catering accommodation contribute to this issue. In terms of social housing, it is very difficult to demonstrate need for further development in small communities as those in housing need are unlikely to register on waiting lists; turnover tends to be lower.

All these issues are of the utmost for fragile, remote and rural communities. They all hinder development and sustainability to some degree. Various schemes and pilots have been run and these go someway to tackling the very real issues.

Access to child-care is an issue on this island. Fuel poverty is a big issue on the island. The “removal” of renewable energy subsidies is an issue.

There is a need for all-year employment opportunities, for pre-school childcare facilities, for a home for the historical society and for greater provision of cultural and artistic activities.

transport links are crucial for community yet this is an area where Council is making cuts.

General feeling is that we need to grow population (e.g. double or treble over next 5 to 15 years), create new housing opportunities, and jobs and general sustainability of the community. We are working on it and have made some significant positive progress.

With such low population numbers, the viability of the small isles communities is constantly being challenged. Broadband has hugely facilitated visitor access and tourism is now the main industry on the islands

Your list above is too simplistic and assumes or implies that the categories are separate. They are not. The usual problems of jobs/houses that have always beset remote rural communities have been overtaken in recent years by declining basic services, particularly health care. If we had 100 more people on the island we would all have better health care because increase in allocated resources would confer better services to all, so is it a population “problem” or a health care “problem”? We could get more people here if there were more jobs, so is it an employment “problem”? New people won’t come to work on an island with failing health care and no suitable housing, so is it back to being a housing or health care “problem”? Unfortunately, centralised budgeting leads to a demand for this kind of listing of problems, which is not helpful. We have had £25m invested in various infrastructure projects on the island in the recent 10 years or so, but if NHS Highland withdraw our primary health care and out of hours care then the population will just move away (apart from a hard core) and all that investment (not from NHS, so they don’t care) will be wasted. The national policies and procedures of many spending arms of government simply don’t work at these sorts of levels and locations – you can’t move costs to customers by taking away the district nurse and asking people to drive to A&E when those people live on an island – there is no A&E we can drive to when the ferry doesn’t run.

Access to 24/7 HEALTH CARE is top of the list of priorities to sustain population levels, economic development and recreational/leisure activities. We need affordable housing, so people who come to work here (mostly in the tourist industry) can find somewhere to live. Without this sustainable economic development is not going to happen. The state of the roads needs to be addressed; ‘Calum’s road’ in the North of the island has become a major attraction over recent years but the road that takes you there is in a deplorable state. Our roads are falling apart due to lack of maintenance of drains and bridges, remedial filling of potholes is totally inadequate. Transport costs – RET has made a difference to the tourist industry, but none whatsoever to local traffic and the cost of carriage of goods. In my opinion locals (i.e.commuters) should have access to a season pass and the cost of commercial goods on the ferry should be greatly reduced. We pay 3% extra for goods, a cost that is reflected in the retail price of food in our shop. Some of the above are presently satisfactory, but vital to retain, such as our local primary school, and access to secondary education on Skye. Broadband speeds are ‘reasonable’ at present, but should be brought and kept in line with the rest of the country. Same for mobile phone coverage.

Housing – vital to arrest population decline and falling school roll. Staffin in a National Scenic Area which restricts development and threatens sustainability of Staffin. Stable, all-year round employment is badly needed in our district to retain our population.

Rural environments suffer at the expense of regional towns and cities, for example, Inverness. It is perceived that funding is more directed at city areas, and less attention to local rural issues, including Transport, again, for example the resumption of air services to Skye.

have not ticked a least important as they are all key to our lifestyle in one way or another. There are many items listed which will have a major influence in what we can do to address our priorities. Broadband and mobile coverage is important for business, Health and social care and education and farming users as well as our emergency services communications. Living on an island transport is again critical to all aspects and freight costs are linked to this. Being an island in a predominantly mainland local authority gives challenges for balanced representation and the recent boundaries commission review did nothing to improve the position due to the guidelines being defined for the mainland majority with no recognition of the adverse impact to the rural communities.

Employment and housing for young folk is essential

It is costly to live in any of the smaller islands but even more expensive on the 2 smaller satellite islands of this particular parish. The 2 smaller islands also have the issue of access to services that are ALL situated on the largest island of the 3. As the population has seriously declined in the last 3 years through deaths or folk moving away, they have not been replaced by in-migration and the above factors make it less likely that new folk will move here.

All of the above are important priorities in most rural communities but are of higher priority in Island communities.

RET was supposed to reduce travel costs to the mainland but this did not work for residents…was an I,prove net for ‘one off’ visitors but we lost our 6 ticket reduction in price …. Reduced fares for locals taking cars on ferries would help along with a reliable ferry service. At present, middle of summer, we have a reduced service which is choc a bloc due to a ferry breakdown and no contingency service from CalMac. Emergency hospital appointments (among others) are compromised & jeapardised. This does not encourage families to move here.

There is a requirement for infrastructure to allow elderly care and child care services to be delivered in remote areas. All resources for housing are being targeted at Stornoway and surrounding areas. The more remote communities are not getting the same support.

 

  1. Recognise that by definition small island communities are different even from remote rural mainland communities, and certainly from connected mainland communities. Then, if Government is happy to support such communities, 2. devolve real budgets for basic services – primary health care, social care, primary education, roads – to Community Councils and let them design and manage provision of services within those budgets.

[1] Scotland’s Census 2011

[2] Based on the 2007 Interreg IIIC project ‘Meeting the Challenges’

[3] Manifesto for Rural Scotland by Scottish Rural Action

[4] Key topics of discussion at a the EU Committee of the Regions Conference ‘Overcoming the Barriers to Economic Development, a Remote Island Perspective’

[5] Scottish Community Alliance is a coalition of 19 community-based networks, including S.I.F.

[6] ESIN aims to help small island communities remain viable through informing and influencing policy and by fostering co-operation between the islands. S.I.F. was one of its founding members in 2001.

Lismore Stores and Post Office

LISMORE STORES and POST OFFICE, on the delightful Inner Hebridean Island of Lismore, Argyll, needs a new proprietor! Offering a completely different kind of retail experience, this opportunity would be ideal for an energetic couple seeking a rural lifestyle, fully integrated into the island community. Situated near the centre of the island, the Stores is the only Shop, Post Office and off License on the Island. It acts as a Community Hub. With a wide range of stock, built up over many years of local trading, the Stores offers potential for new ideas and adjustments to suit changing conditions.

Full details here: LISMORE STORES (5)

Scottish Government Local Energy Policy Statement: Consultation Events

The Scottish Government’s Local Energy Policy Statement consultation is now live and you can read more about it here.

As part of the process, a series of workshops are being held across Scotland to get the views of a wide-variety of stakeholders.

This inlcudes an Island Webinar Workshop on the 19th November from 1pm-2pm.  Register here.

Other events inlcude:
19 November, 11am – 12:30pm, Inverness.  Register here.

27 November, 11am – 1pm, Dumfries. Register here.

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’).