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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

ESEC attends EU Week of Regions and Cities

ESEC chair Cllr Ben Lawrie and policy officer Joanne Scobie have returned from a packed visit to Brussels for the EU Week of Regions and Cities, brushing up on familiar topics and learning about lots of new issues. We had sessions on resilient communities, transnational cooperation in the Brexit era, 25 years of LEADER and CLLD, local/regional leadership and creating fair opportunities for rural-suburban areas.

The opening session took place in the European Parliament hemicycle, an awe-inspiring and impressive chamber which usually houses the business of 751 MEPs, including 73 from the UK and 6 from Scotland.

The opening session included remarks from Corina Crețu, the European Commission for Regional Policy, and Karl-Heinz Lambertz, the President of the Committee of the Regions. The Commissioner highlighted that this was the 15th year of the EU Week of Regions and Cities, during which 75,000 delegates had taken part, mostly from local and regional authorities. Looking to the future, she stressed the importance of the Cohesion Policy in bridging gaps and inequalities throughout the EU, however there remained challenges on communicating how it is applied on the ground. Despite Cohesion Policy impacting every town and region in EU, mostly through the Structural Funds, citizens’ awareness remained low.

Commissioner Crețu presented the 7th Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion, which follows the European Commission’s white paper on the Future of Europe, and ahead of the upcoming proposals on the next multi-annual financial framework. The report highlights that although regional disparities are shrinking, unemployment rates remain above the pre-crisis levels in a number of areas, and even in wealthier regions, poverty and social exclusion are still too high. Cohesion Policy therefore remains more relevant than ever and “constitutes the DNA of Europe.” The full report can be accessed here.

It was an interesting time to be in Brussels – the week-long event took place at the same time as the 5th round of Brexit negotiations, which Michel Barnier concluded had ended in deadlock. Even though we will no longer be a member of the EU from March 2019, there will still be plenty of opportunities to collaborate should the UK government choose to do so, like Norway does within certain EU funding programmes. This potential for collaboration was reaffirmed during our networking with colleagues from the EU27 (and Norway!). Scottish local authorities have an excellent reputation within the EU institutions and public administrations across Europe for delivering high-quality EU-funded projects, and we have built up strong networks over the decades. The message to us was clear – where possible, we are encouraged to continue collaborating together on issues of mutual interest and advantage. This is particularly pertinent in the transnational funds INTERREG, URBACT, Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020.

Aside from these informal discussions around our changing relationship, it was notable how little Brexit was mentioned at the official level, suggesting that indeed the EU27 is moving on and their focus is now on shaping their shared future (via one of the 5 scenarios presented in the Future of Europe white paper), and of course negotiating and agreeing the next budget, to take over the current framework from 2021. The few times that Brexit was mentioned was in the context of the financial settlement currently being negotiated between the EU and UK, and which is proving to be an obstacle in moving talks on to the future relationship. In terms of Cohesion Policy, it was stressed that if the UK paid anything less than its agreed budget contribution for 2014-20, this would have a negative impact for the delivery of ongoing and future projects across the EU, many of these being led by local authority partners.  A concrete example of this was provided by the INTERREG North West Europe Director. The UK Treasury has guaranteed that all projects which meet their stated criteria and which are signed off while we are still a member of the EU will go ahead. However, this guarantee will naturally only apply to projects which involve a UK partner. If the UK pays less than its agreed contribution for the 2014-20 period, then programmes such as INTERREG will suffer from an unexpected reduction in budget, impacting the amount of projects they can support, as well as the length of time.

The EU Week of Regions and Cities has a great ‘everyone under one roof’ atmosphere and aside from the workshops and networking with EU partners, ESEC also managed to catch up with former ESEC chair Mairi Gougeon MSP, WoSEF chair Cllr Tony Buchanan, and colleagues from HIE, HIEP, Scotland Europa, CoSLA and the University of the Highlands and Islands. We have a shared strategy on Brexit – Scottish stakeholders will remain engaged and visible within the EU while we are still members, and even when we are not. We will continue to be enthusiastic partners in delivering EU-funded projects and we remain available to share our expertise, as well as benefitting from the experience of others. Based on the value of what we can offer and what we can learn, we will continue to make a strong case for our continued participation in transnational programmes, even as a third country.

That is why we will continue to be a visible presence in Brussels and beyond, and we are already looking forward to attending the EU Week of Regions and Cities in 2018!

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.

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Scottish Government publishes Brexit position

The Scottish Government has today published its Brexit plans on Scotland’s place in Europe.

ESEC welcomes the statement from the Scottish Government that local government has a significant stake in future options. Local councils deliver on the ground a significant amount of EU policy, including social inclusion, environmental protection, transport, rural and maritime development, procurement and state aid. Over the course of our EU membership, local government has benefited from significant EU funding and has developed strong networks which have supported economic development in our region.

We will continue to work with the Scottish Government to ensure economic and social regeneration is not negatively impacted by Brexit.

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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: