A group which represents a host of organisations and bodies in the islands has expressed concern by the way the Highlands & Islands have been ignored by the UK Government’s replacement for EU Structural Funds.
The Scottish Islands Federation (SIF) is run by a voluntary board of directors. Its membership is made up of Community Councils, Community Development Trusts and other community organisations across Scotland’s 93 inhabited islands.
SIF Chair Camille Dressler said:
“We all know how important EU Structural funds have been for island communities, whether it is road construction, ferry and tourism infrastructure, local community projects or employability.
“So we have serious concerns that the methods used to categorise priority areas for the Levelling up Fund are badly flawed: the absence of Highland, Orkney and Shetland in the list of priority areas is baffling given the economic and social fragility of these places.
“The irony is that the Highlands & Islands give so much back to the rest of the UK. Just think about the fact that most of the renewable energy generated in the UK comes from the Highlands & Islands. “
The Levelling up Fund as part of the UK Community Renewal Fund is a pilot funding project in place for 2021-22 to inform the design of the main UK Shared Prosperity Fund which itself is meant to replace EU Structural Funds.
Local authorities were given till 18th June to submit proposals for projects in their area, one for each Westminster constituency in their region for the UK Government to consider.
Click on this link to find out more: UK Community Renewal Fund: prospectus 2021-22
This new Fund, to be launched in 2022, will operate throughout the UK and play a part in uniting and levelling up the whole country.
The UK government will run a competitive process that all places in Great Britain are eligible to apply for. Bids for the UK Community Renewal Fund will be managed by the following, hereafter referenced as the ‘lead authority’:
Mayoral Combined Authorities, where they exist in England
The Greater London Authority
Unitary authorities elsewhere in England and in Scotland and Wales
The UK Government has identified 100 places for funding. The successful places will be announced from late July 2021 onwards.
Camille Dressler continued:
“At local level we also have concerns about local authorities not engaging with community groups about project selection. It’s often the areas like islands that need most support that are ignored.
“We’d like to see much better engagement from both the UK Government and local councils, and plan to carry out a review of how the funds will have been spent for the islands in this round.
“We seriously hope that the UK Government will listen to all concerns raised and take these on board when launching the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in 2022.”
In other news for the islands, at the Scottish Parliament Orkney Constituency MSP, Liam McArthur, LibDem, has been appointed as Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s new Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee. The Committee appointed Conservative MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries, Finlay Carson, to the role of Convener.
Delighted with his appointment Liam McArthur said:
“Obviously there is a strong constituency interest in the issues this Committee will consider, but they have a far wider significance too, as we chart our recovery from the pandemic while also taking action to tackle the climate emergency.
“I intend to play my part in helping the Committee ensure the needs of islanders and our island communities are reflected in future debates over legislation and policy.
“I’ve already made clear a number of areas, including digital connections and lifeline transport links, where I want to see the Committee focus some of its early attention.”
Lets hope ALL of our Highlands & Islands MPs and MSPs are on this case and, if not, why are they not on this case?