ESEC welcomes parliamentary report on UK Shared Prosperity Fund

The East of Scotland European Consortium (ESEC) welcomes the report on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Post-Brexit funding for Nations, Regions and Local Areas.

In the period of 2014-20, Scotland will have received €476 million from the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) and €465 million from the European Social Fund (ESF). The UK government has proposed that the Shared Prosperity Fund replaces this investment, but as of yet there has been no further detail on the allocation, management, or delivery.

The APPG report is positive and recognises the expertise of local authorities in delivering EU-funded projects for the benefit or their communities. We would like to highlight the following recommendations from the report as being in line with our own position:

  • The budget for the UKSPF needs to be no less, in real terms, than the EU funding it replaces. This would be £1.5 billion a year, but just for ESF and ERDF. To also cover the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), the budget would need to be proportionally larger; in addition, the existing shares for the four nations of the UK should be rolled forward.
  • The UKSPF should operate on the basis of multi-annual financial allocations to allow for the proper planning and implementation of projects; lengthy financial allocations of this kind do not fit neatly with UK Spending Reviews but in the context of regional and local economic development there is considerable merit in lengthier spending programmes.
  • The UK Government should not earmark parts of the pot for specific areas within the devolved nations – the allocation of funding to local areas should be a devolved matter;
  • There should be no role for competition between areas for funding as this is as a waste of time and resource for those delivering projects;
  • Local partners should be given flexibility to define the types of projects on which the UKSPF is spent, as long as the activities remain consistent with the wider objectives of the Fund;
  • EU funding can be very bureaucratic and there is a strong need to simplify administrative processes; government departments need to devolve more responsibility (and trust) to local players such as local authorities, especially where well-proven administrative structures are in place.

We look forward to responding to the UK government’s own consultation when it is launched later this year, and we hope some of these recommendations are reflected in the content.

To read the report and the individual submissions, including that of ESEC, please see here – https://www.postbrexitappg.org/

FIFE COUNCIL URGES UK GOVERNMENT TO STAY IN INTERREG POST-BREXIT

Fife joins Dundee and Angus Councils in calling on government to stay in Interreg post-Brexit

Fife Council has adopted a motion in support of the United Kingdom remaining in the EU Interreg funding programme post-Brexit. The motion, which was approved unanimously, remits the council’s chief executive 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. It follows similar motions which were recently approved by Dundee City and Angus Councils.

Interreg facilitates cooperation across borders and allows local authorities 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. It is funded via the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Since 2014, there have been 112 approved projects across Scotland with a total grant value of almost €58,000,000.

Fife Council is currently involved in 3 Interreg projects – CLIPPER, uNEET and RIGHT. The CLIPPER project is working to better support SMEs in the maritime sector as they diversify and change business practice to tackle new opportunities such as offshore renewable energy. The uNEET project aims to tackle the unemployment of young people and to respond to the recruitment difficulties faced by companies in the hospitality sector. The RIGHT project aims to design and test educational and training programmes to bridge the skills gap in a fast changing skills environment in emerging and growth sectors. The projects are worth a combined EU grant of approximately £650,000 to Fife Council. Other organisations to have received Interreg funding include Dundee and Angus College, the James Hutton Institute, the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage, Abertay University and NHS Scotland.

The motion was proposed by Councillor Altany Craik, the council’s representative on the board of the East of Scotland European Consortium (ESEC). Councillor Craik said “The motion was passed unopposed and without amendment which is a testament to the value of Interreg to our businesses and communities. The EU recognises the expertise which UK organisations bring to Interreg and has already confirmed we would be welcomed into the programme post-Brexit, the UK Government remains the only player in this field yet to confirm their position and we therefore call on them to do so with immediate effect.”

Text of Fife Council motion (motion 5) – https://www.fifedirect.org.uk/uploadfiles/publications/c64_AgendaPapersFC041018.pdf

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

EU Interreg projects arrive in the East of Scotland

Angus Council and Fife Council host transnational Interreg delegations

This week Angus Council and Fife Council will both welcome international delegations and high-profile guests to their respective territories as part of separate Interreg projects. Interreg is the EU fund which supports crossborder and transnational cooperation, and is of particular importance for local authorities.

In Carnoustie, Angus Council will hold a mid-term conference on 5 July for its Interreg LIKE! project on digital innovation in the public sector. Speakers include Martyn Wallace, Chief Digital Officer at the Scottish Local Government Digital Office, Colin Birchnell, Chief Technology Officer at the Scottish Local Government Digital Office, and Kristina Reinsalu, Head of e-Democracy Domain at the e-Governance Academy in Estonia. 100 delegates from across Europe attended the conference.

Fife Council will lead a three day programme which starts on Tuesday with an update to partners and external stakeholders on its Interreg Clipper project, followed by a provost reception in Dunfermline. On Wednesday delegates will be taken on visits to the Fife Renewables Innovation Centre, Forth Ports and St Andrews. The programme will conclude on Thursday with a roundtable discussion with European Commission director Bernhard Friess, who will travel from Brussels especially for the occasion. Mr Friess is the Director of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries at the Commission.

Fife’s CLIPPER project is working to develop public policies to better support SMEs in the maritime sector as they diversify and change business practice to tackle new opportunities such as offshore renewable energy.  This includes better understanding of newer financing platforms, such as crowdfunding to develop new sources of investment. It is one of three Interreg projects involving Fife Council, the other two being RIGHT and UNEET, which focus on developing skills in key growth sectors.

LIKE! is Angus Council’s first Interreg project, and is already having a great impact since it was first approved two years ago. As part of the project, the Angus Health and Social Care Partnership recently piloted a participatory budget event during which citizens in Montrose voted for local projects to address health and well-being priorities. Other pilots across the partnership include council/citizen chatbots, children’s services analytics, digital skills for employees, and hackathons for people with disabilities.

Along with the better known programmes Horizon 2020 and Erasmus Plus, Scottish organisations have done very well in securing Interreg funding. Since the start of the current programme (2014), there have been 112 approved projects in Scotland, totalling an EU investment of €57,914,558.

ESEC chair Councillor Ben Lawrie said “Interreg is an invaluable programme to councils, and not just in monetary terms. Interreg projects allow us to learn from our colleagues across Europe, and them from us. Leaving the EU does not necessarily mean an end to Interreg cooperation, as we could still participate as a third country as Norway does. Indeed, the European Commission recently agreed that the UK could opt-in post-Brexit thanks to the persuasive arguments made by our national body CoSLA. The ball is now in the UK government’s court, and we hope to see reference made to Interreg in the upcoming Brexit White Paper.”

For more on the LIKE! project please see here
For more on the Clipper project please see here

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.

 

MSPs debate future of LEADER, the EU rural development programme

On 6 March 2018, the Scottish Parliament chamber debated LEADER, the EU’s rural development fund, following a motion submitted by Mairi Gougeon MSP. The debate followed an initial meeting between Members of the Scottish Parliament, ESEC EU officer Joanne Scobie and the LEADER Forth Valley Lomond programme manager, Anne-Michelle Ketteridge. The meeting provided the opportunity to highlight the spend of the LEADER programme in Scotland to date, and the amount of approved and in progress projects. It was noted that while LEADER is a demonstrably valuable programme for rural communities, it is not as visible as it should be, which is of great concern particularly in the light of Brexit.

Ten MSPs from across the political divide took part in the debate, with the SNP, Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats all contributing. It was a well-informed and passionate debate. Each of the MSPs who took part were vocal in their support of LEADER and referenced projects from their own constituencies, which served to highlight the genuine quality, innovation and diversity of the programme. Examples of these projects included; tea and vodka in Angus, Strichen Townhouse being refurbished to include a library, museum and archive, the Wigtown book festival, the tag-n-track project of barn owls and lesser black-backed gulls at Clyde Muirshiel regional park, Seed to Soup which develops horticultural skills in young people, the first distillery in Inverclyde for decades, an indoor horse riding arena in Inverurie which will provide facilities for disabled people, and the restoration of three ecologically important estuaries in Fife.

While each MSP spoke with enthusiasm about the impact and the legacy of the programme, there were differing positions on what next for LEADER and rural development funding once we are no longer a member of the EU. Peter Chapman (Conservative, North East Scotland) stated that the responsibility for the design and implementation of a Scottish rural support system will be in the hands of the Scottish government. Joan McAlpine (SNP, South of Scotland) said that any future funding mechanism should have no negative detriment for Scotland and current levels of funding must be maintained (outwith the Barnett Formula). Liam McArthur (LD, Orkney Islands) spoke of his own wife’s experience as a LEADER beneficiary and said that there is room for improvement moving forward, with scope to simplifying the application process and guidance, all of which should be supported by a more intuitive technology system.

The concluding remarks were provided by Mr Ewing, who commended LEADER for its successful bottom-up approach and its success in levering in match-funding. On the successor programme, he said he had written to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for clarity on funding once the current LEADER programme (2014-20) closes, and also voiced his support for the same 7 year budget cycle (2020-27).

Mr Ewing said it should be for communities to decide on the funding mechanism which will deliver rural development support post-Brexit. If it is indeed the Scottish Government which will be responsible for the design of the replacement Scottish rural support system, then the grassroots collective of local government, LEADER local action groups, and communities themselves stand ready to contribute and to share recommendations and examples of best practice. Mr Ewing rightly pointed out that people do not want an “political argy-bargy” but rather the knowledge that when the current programme ends in 2020, there will a subsequent multi-year programme in place to take over.

We would like to thank Mairi Gougeon MSP for submitting this motion for debate and her clear commitment to LEADER. We would also like to congratulate her on her pronunciation of the LEADER acronym (in French) “Liaison entre Actions de Développement de l’Économie Rurale”!

Finally, we are impressed with Mairi’s ongoing mission to having Mr. Ewing attend Bonfest in Kirriemuir, the annual AC/DC music festival which itself was borne of a LEADER grant. The Cabinet Secretary offered his apologies on this occasion, professing himself to be more of a Leonard Cohen fan.

See here for a transcript of the debate.

ESEC joins campaign to #KeepErasmusPlus

ESEC has joined youth, third sector and sports organisations across the United Kingdom to launch #KeepErasmusPlus, a national campaign to save a vital European exchange programme which has benefited over half a million people.

Erasmus+ is a European funding programme for education, training, youth and sport. It enables people – especially those who can’t otherwise afford it – the opportunity to study, work, volunteer, teach and train in other countries.

Erasmus+ funds all sorts of educational activities in different settings, including in schools, youth exchanges, cultural projects, volunteering, vocational training and studying at university abroad. Over the past 30 years, 600,000 people from the UK have taken part in Erasmus+. Between 2014 and 2020, Erasmus+ will have been worth £793 million to the UK.

Since 2014, organisations across the seven ESEC council areas have received more than £11,000,000 from the Erasmus+ programme for local projects.

Through partnership across the 6 Erasmus+ sectors we will lobby politicians across the UK, to maintain participation in Erasmus+ after Brexit. The campaign will emphasise the positive impact of Erasmus+ on individuals and communities.

We are asking individuals and organisations to:

  • Sign our petition http://bit.ly/KeepErasmusPlus
  • Get in touch with their local politicians
  • Share your Erasmus+ story on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using hashtag #KeepErasmusPlus

ESEC chair Councillor Ben Lawrie said of the campaign: “Erasmus+ funding has impacted and enriched education across our area, from nurseries to universities. It has provided opportunities for our teachers to train overseas, and be exposed to innovative models of learning and teaching. In addition, sports clubs are also able to partake in Erasmus+ exchanges, and several football teams have been awarded grants to send their young players to winter camps elsewhere in the EU.

Erasmus+ is a great resource for our communities. However, the projects and initiatives this programme funds are worth so much more than simply a monetary value – they are providing unique opportunities for all ages throughout Scotland.

Our access to Erasmus+ does not need to be restricted as a result of Brexit. Non-EU members such as Norway are very much involved in Erasmus+ and as a member of the #KeepErasmusPlus campaign, we will be pushing for our communities to have continued access to the wealth of opportunities available. We will be insisting that the UK government guarantees this as we move on to the second phase Brexit negotiations.

Emily Beever, European Campaign Lead, YouthLink Scotland said: “In the midst of uncertainty on our future relationship with Europe, we say join us to celebrate the great success story of Erasmus+ in the UK. We would like to see the Prime Minister make a commitment to the continuation of Erasmus+, a programme that already involves non-EU members, including Iceland and Norway. This funding has given life-changing opportunities to young people from some of our most disadvantaged communities.”

Across our partners we have many case studies available.

For media enquiries and further information please contact:

List of current partners – this is a rolling campaign and we are adding partners all the time:

A & M Scotland

Carers Scotland

Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services

East of Scotland European Consortium (ESEC)

Elevate

Glasgow Council on Alcohol

Greenock Morton FC

Leonard Cheshire Scotland

Momentum World

Newbold Trust

NUS UK

Project Scotland

Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations

Scottish Youth Parliament

The Surefoot Effect

Xchange Scotland

Young Scot

YouthLink Scotland

East of Scotland’s €11m of Erasmus grants for schools, colleges, universities and even national football teams

ESEC’s ongoing to research into the impact of EU funding in our region has revealed that one of the main EU programmes we work with, Erasmus+, has provided financial support of over €11 million to projects in the east of Scotland since 2014.

“Our area has received €11,042,493 to date but even this is a conservative total as it only covers local-led projects” said ESEC chair Councillor Ben Lawrie of Angus Council, the current host of the consortium. “In 2017, Scotland as a whole has been awarded its highest ever amount of Erasmus funding – €21m so far compared to €16m in 2016.”

“It is the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus programme this year, and these figures highlight the value it brings in all areas of education, offering opportunities for participants to study, work, volunteer and train overseas, as well as awarding financial support for local schools and nurseries to provide language training for pupils and teachers. Even football clubs can take part to support young players in attending winter camps elsewhere in the EU.”

The seven members of ESEC are Aberdeen City, Angus, Dundee, Falkirk, Fife, Perth & Kinross and Stirling Councils and a large number of projects across the seven areas have received Erasmus+ awards.

“Erasmus+ is a great resource for our young people,” continued Cllr Lawrie. “However, the projects and initiatives this programme funds are worth so much more than simply a monetary value – they are providing unique opportunities for all ages throughout Scotland.”

Dundee & Angus College has received Erasmus+ funding of around €750,000 in the last three years.  “The Erasmus+ programme allows us to offer life changing opportunities to our students,” said Lol Scragg, International Project Lead at the college. “Thanks to this programme’s financial support, our students can undertake work placements and study in Europe and around the world. In addition it allows staff to join projects with our European partners to share knowledge and continually improve our provision to our students.”

Erasmus+ has also helped Aberdeen, Cowdenbeath, Dundee United and St Johnstone Football Clubs to provide winter camp experiences for their young players, with an emphasis of exposing them to the footballing skills and cultures of different countries.

“Thanks to Erasmus+ funding, we were able to offer two trips to Austria and Portugal for our Under-20s squad and staff,” said Steven Gunn, Football Operations Manager of Aberdeen Football Club. “The opportunities provided by these visits were hugely important in the development of our young footballers, both personally and professionally.”

St Johnstone Football Club’s Under-20 team and boys from the Saints Academy’s Under-17s team recently returned from a two-week training camp in Portugal, during which they played against two local sides and attended a Portuguese First Division match. “This trip wouldn’t have been feasible without Erasmus funding,” said Under-20 coach Alex Cleland.

“It was a very useful experience for them all but especially for the Under-17 lads who got a real taste of what fulltime training is all about. The benefits to the boys and the club were invaluable.”

The Dundee United project allowed for a group of 20 apprentices (16 to 19 years old) to gain experience of the training methods at a UEFA acknowledged Centre of Excellence in Turkey. Specific objectives of the project included increased maturity and a sense of initiative, enhanced intercultural awareness, and increased motivation both on and off the field. The Cowdenbeath project sent 16 apprentices (aged 16-19 years) to attend a world class coaching complex in Portugal, one of the main objectives being to improve the physiological development of participants via the implementation of innovative training regimes.

Although Britain’s departure from the EU is looming, Councillor Lawrie stressed that this need not mean the end of Erasmus collaboration for Scottish organisations.

“Our access to Erasmus+ does not need to be restricted as a result of Brexit. Non-EU members such as Norway are very much involved in Erasmus+ and we will be pushing for our communities to have continued access to the wealth of opportunities available. We will be insisting that the UK government guarantees this during Brexit negotiations.”

Breakdown of the figures per area:

  • Aberdeen – €4,535,685.00
  • Angus – €964,079.00 (includes D&A College figures)
  • Dundee – €2,357,179.00 (includes D&A College figures)
  • Falkirk – €48,614.00
  • Fife – €2,324,959.00
  • Perth and Kinross – €1,183,899.00
  • Stirling – €1,463,544.00

For more information on how to access Erasmus+ funding, please contact the ESEC Secretariat – esec@angus.org.uk