ESEC members urge UK government to commit to Interreg post-Brexit

Angus Council and Dundee City Council call on government to stay in Interreg post-Brexit

Dundee City Council and Angus Council have both adopted motions in support of the United Kingdom remaining in the EU Interreg funding programme post-Brexit. The motions, which were approved unanimously, remit the councils’ chief executives to write to the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Dominic Raab, in support of Interreg and to urge the UK government to commit to participating in the programme as a non-EU country.

The motions highlight the importance of the Interreg programme to Local Authorities as it allows them to research best practice, pilot new approaches and implement new policies by working with other organisations across the EU and other participating non-EU members.

Dundee City Council is currently involved in 2 Interreg projects (Create Converge and CultCreate) and Angus Council is involved in the Interreg project Like! which has a focus on digital innovation in the public sector.  These projects are among several more being delivered by councils across Scotland. Other organisations which have received Interreg funding include Dundee and Angus College, the James Hutton Institute, the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage, Abertay University and NHS Scotland. Since 2014, there have been 112 approved projects in Scotland with a total grant value of almost €58,000,000.

The Angus Council motion was proposed by Councillor Ben Lawrie, the East of Scotland European Consortium (ESEC) chair.

Cllr Lawrie said “Councillors across Angus Council have varying views on Brexit, from strong anti-EU sentiments to the most pro-EU of positions. The fact that the motion was passed unanimously is a testament to the need for continued cooperation with our counterparts in Europe, even if we are no longer EU members.”

The Dundee City Council motion was proposed by Councillor Will Dawson, vice-chair of ESEC.

Cllr Dawson said “The European Commission has already opened the door to us staying in Interreg once we leave the EU, even before this issue is on the table during the Brexit negotiations. This is a testament to our value as partners in the programme. The ball is now in the court of the UK government to make this happen, and I’d also call on other councils and organisations which value Interreg to speak up. Now is the time.”

Text of Dundee City Council motion – https://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/reports/agendas/p&r200818pub.pdf

Text of Angus Council motion – http://www.angus.gov.uk/sites/angus-cms/files/2018-09/AngusCouncil_0.pdf

Further success for ESEC councils in EU funding awards

ESEC’s member councils have all been successful in securing further EU funding awards, from the Erasmus+ and ERDF programmes respectively.

All ESEC councils have schools in their areas which have been successful in securing Erasmus+ funding. These grants will support teachers in developing their modern language skills, which in turn enables the national 1+2 language policy which creates the conditions for every child to learn two languages in addition to their own mother tongue. The schools are; Bucksburn Academy (Aberdeen), Oldmachar Academy (Aberdeen), Torphins Primary School (Aberdeen), Lochside Primary School (Angus),  Montrose Academy (Angus), Strathmore Primary School (Angus), Ancrum Road Primary School (Dundee), Harris Academy (Dundee), Balcurvie Primary School (Fife), Duloch Primary School (Fife), Moray Primary School (Falkirk), St Margaret’s Primary School (Falkirk), Glenlyon Primary School (Perth and Kinross), Bannockburn High School (Stirling), and Doune Primary School (Stirling). Since 2014, organisations across the ESEC area have secured more than €11 million in Erasmus+ funding.

Angus Council was also awarded Erasmus+ funding via the youth strand. The project Youth Wellbeing 4 All will facilitate a youth exchange which will bring together young people from two countries (Scotland and Italy) to begin to design their own mental health early intervention schemes and coping tools. The Dundee Football Club in the Community Trust was also successful in securing Erasmus+ youth funding for The Dees without Frontiers which will see 20 young people from Dundee spend time with the Cordoba Football Club community trust, in a series of workshops with a focus on health and well-being. The application was drafted with the support of Dundee City Council and ESEC.

ESEC members Angus, Dundee City and Stirling Councils were all awarded European Regional Development funding (ERDF) via the second round of the Low Carbon Travel and Transport (LCTT) challenge fund. The grants will allow the councils to expand their low-carbon and e-vehicle charging offerings, which in turn will provide commuters and residents with increased opportunities for low-carbon travel options. This adds to the successful bids in the first round of the LCTT fund, in which Dundee City, Falkirk, and Perth and Kinross Councils were all awarded funding.

See here for more information on Erasmus+ funding in the UK

See here for the project details for the LCTT ERDF awards

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.

 

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.

 

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 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: