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.”