ESEC board and officers at CoSLA EU office

ESEC Brexit fact-finding programme to Brussels

At the end of March, the ESEC Policy Board and Officer Group went to Brussels on a Brexit fact-finding mission, the objective of the trip being to investigate how third country local authorities engage with the EU institutions. Board members included Cllr John Reynolds (Aberdeen City Council), Cllr Ben Lawrie (Angus Council), Cllr Will Dawson (Dundee City Council), Cllr Altany Craik (Fife Council), Cllr Peter Barrett (Perth and Kinross Council) and Cllr Scott Farmer (Stirling Council).

The three day meeting schedule was facilitated by Scotland Europa  and CoSLA, and the delegation met with the Committee of the Regions (COR), the Scottish Government, Eurocities, the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities, Oslo Region European Office, the East of England European Partnership, MEPs David Martin and Catherine Stihler, the Swiss Mission to the EU, DG Regio of the European Commission, the North Sea Commission, and the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR).

Some of our findings:

  • 3rd country status does not necessarily mean pulling up the drawbridge to the EU. Norway has a large presence in Brussels and its local government association provides training and job shadowing opportunities to councillors in order to help them better understand the EEA and EU. Switzerland also has a large presence, with 55 members of staff at the Swiss Mission.
  • Brexit is high on the agenda for many other local authorities and regional bodies in the UK, with a particular focus preparing for what happens post-2020, and ensuring the collective voices of local government is taken into account during the design of the UK Shared Prosperity fund, which will replace the bulk of EU funding.
  • Many 3rd countries participate in transnational programmes such as Erasmus+, Interreg and Horizon 2020, although there are different models for doing so. In order to make our case for continued participation in these funds post-Brexit, we need to showcase our many successes in these projects, and the impacts they have had via case studies.
  • Discussions around the next EU budget (2021-28) have already started and will begin in earnest when the European Commission adopts its proposals on 2 May. Even though we will no longer be EU members when this budget comes into force, we should still feed our views and expertise into the negotiation process.

ESEC chair Cllr Ben Lawrie said of the trip “Our fact-finding mission provided a great opportunity to explore how other non-EU countries maintain cooperation with the EU. It was encouraging to see non-EU states like Norway participating in important programmes such as INTERREG and we are hopeful that something similar can be arranged for Britain post-Brexit.”

We are drafting a more detailed report from our visit. In the meantime, you can see more of our thoughts on the trip via our Twitter posts.

 

Policy Board

ESEC Policy Board meets to discuss Brexit, EU funding

On Tuesday 22 August, the new ESEC Policy Board met for the first time since the local elections of 4 May 2017. The meeting was opened by ESEC Chair, Councillor Ben Lawrie, who welcomed the elected members and officers to Dundee. The board then elected two Vice-Chairs, Councillor Will Dawson of Dundee City Council and Councillor John Reynolds of Aberdeen City Council.

Joanne Scobie, ESEC’s EU Officer, then gave an overview of the structure, activities and priorities of the consortium for the benefit of those new to the board. We were also joined by Rickard Eksten of Scotland Europa, who gave an overview of Scotland Europa’s activity, ongoing collaboration with ESEC, the changing UK-EU landscape, and their approach to EU engagement following the referendum.

The board then discussed other ESEC business, including our approach to Brexit and the challenges for local authorities, especially in terms of EU funding and networks. Also on the agenda was the annual audit report and the 2018 Work Plan. It was agreed that next meeting will take place in November. The new structure of the Policy Board can be viewed here.

Following the conclusion of the meeting, the board and officers then visited the RSS Discovery ship and museum, which sits alongside the under-construction V&A museum, the first ever design museum to be built in the UK outside of London.

 

Michael Russel MSP

ESEC showcases EU-funded projects at Scottish Parliament

On 23rd February 2017, ESEC hosted an event in the Scottish Parliament to showcase the quality and diversity of EU funded projects supported by our member authorities in the East of Scotland. The evening featured a key note speech from Mike Russell MSP, the Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, Mairi Evans MSP, ESEC chair Councillor Lynne Devine and Graham Galloway, the Development Worker at DD8 Music.

Mr Russell praised the projects on display and stressed that the EU is not an abstract concept or an accountants club. Over the years, EU investment via Structural Funds and other programmes have benefited communities at the grassroots level.

Mairi Evans MSP spoke about her time as ESEC chair and how it opened her eyes to the positive impacts of EU funding and the extent to which it underpins a lot of local authority services. She said the event was a great opportunity to showcase the many investments at local level and to make the case for fair funding for our rural economy post-Brexit to best protect the interests of all of rural Scotland.

Councillor Devine said the event was a call on the UK and Scottish governments to recognise the value of such projects and to take them into consideration during Brexit negotiations. She urged councils and academic institutions to work together to raise awareness of their activities in these areas.

Graham Galloway spoke about the LEADER grant DD8 received which kick-started the growth of the community music group, and which has since gone on to hold an annual AC/DC tribute music group, and also successfully crowdfunded a statue of former AC/DC singer Bon Scott. The group continues to engage with EU funds via Erasmus+ and LEADER.

For more information and all the photos of the event, please see here.

mairi-evans

Mairi Evans MSP highlights impact of Brexit on Local Authorities

On 14 September 2016, former ESEC chair Mairi Evans MSP spoke in the Scottish Parliament about the impact of Brexit on Local Authorities.

MSP Evans informed the chamber that the impacts of the Brexit vote are already having a real impact on local government, particularly in relation to funding. She pointed out that local authorities are responsible for the delivery of one third of Scotland’s European Structural and Investment Funds, and are heavily engaged with transnational funds such as INTERREG and Erasmus.

MSP Evans has served as a councillor with Angus Council for ten years and in this role witnessed first hand the impact EU funds have had on the local economy, and how local government relies on EU support to deliver vital work in areas such as business support employability, economic development, tourism, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, rural development, community work and tackling poverty.

She referred to ESEC research which highlighted that in the period 2007-13, our region levered in public and private investment on the back of EU grant funding, amounting to upwards of £380,000,000 in total project costs.

MSP Evans highlighted an immediate impact of the Brexit vote to her parliamentarian colleagues, which is a reticence  on behalf of our EU local authority counterparts to involve UK organisations in new projects and bids, as there is just too much uncertainty over the future of EU transnational funds. The announcement from the Chancellor that projects signed off before the Autumn Statement will be secure, unfortunately does not guarantee the majority of projects involving local authorities. She also highlighted the uncertainty over LEADER, the rural development programme, which has only just got off the ground and is at risk of being devalued during Brexit negotiations.

Concluding her speech, MSP Evans said “Brexit might well mean Brexit but, until we know what that means, the uncertainty that it is causing and the damage that it is doing are set to continue.

ESEC welcomes the comments by MSP Evans. In the aftermath of the  Brexit vote, little has been said on the impact of leaving the EU on local government, or the immediate and damaging impact this has had on our EU networks and partnerships. We look forward to further cooperation with Mairi Evans on highlighting these issues.

For more information, please see: