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.

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Statement from ESEC chair on EU referendum result

On 23 June 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU in a significant and unexpected referendum result. ESEC was strongly in favour of remaining  a member of the EU and so this was a disappointing outcome. Our region and local authorities have benefited greatly from EU membership, and our communities have received hundreds of millions in EU funding over the years.

At the time of going to press it is too early to say what the implications might be, and our Policy Board will soon meet to discuss how this will affect local government. Our councillors and local authority officers have developed and nurtured close professional relationships with their European counterparts, working relationships which have been built up over years if not decades. We hope that this will continue in some form, as we have learned as much from our EU colleagues as they have from us and we will strongly feel the impact if we lose access to these supportive networks.

In the meantime we will continue to engage in EU policy and programmes in order to serve the best interests of our local authorities and communities.

Councillor Mairi Evans, Chair of ESEC

Scottish Government lays out positive case for EU membership

The Scottish Government today (24 May 2016) published its case for the benefits of EU membership, ahead of the EU referendum on 23 June.

The report points out that Scottish beneficiaries receive significant amounts of EU funding to develop projects in the fields of research, education, health and regional development. For the period of 2014-20, Scotland will receive € €941 million in European Structural and Investment Funds for projects aims at reducing poverty and social exclusion, boosting educational attainment and skills development, and supporting projects with a positive impact on climate change and renewable energy.

In addition, Scotland will receive €4.6 billion to implement the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) until 2020, which includes €3.7 billion is in direct payments to farmers, and just over €840 million for the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP).  The SRDP, which includes LEADER,  funds a wide variety of projects to help create vibrant rural communities, develop food, drink and wider rural businesses, and support the forestry and farming sectors.

Regarding the economy, it estimates that over 300,000 Scottish jobs are directly and indirectly associated with exports to the EU in 2011. Moreover, the EU is the top destination for Scottish exports, receiving 42% of Scotland’s international exports in 2014, worth more than £11 billion.

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INTERREG North Sea Region programme: facts and figures

The second call for Interreg North Sea Region (NSR) applications closed on 14 March, and a total of 71 applications were submitted.

The programme received 46 Expressions of Interest (EOI) and 25 full applications. The majority of EOI were submitted under Priority 1, Thinking Growth. For full applications, Priority 3, Sustainable North Sea Region received the most applications (9 out of 25).

ESEC members are fully engaged with the programme and a number of them submitted either EOI and full applications.

The results of the call will be announced in September 2016. In the meantime, the ESEC secretariat will attend the annual NSR Conference, 15-16 June 2016 in Denmark, to further develop our network with potential European partners and to get to know the very many interesting projects in development.

For more information, please see here.