The Highlands and Islands has greatly benefitted over the years from European funding investment of £1.5 billion as a 'transition' area, to help reduce disparities and align living standards across Europe.  European Territorial Cohesion Policies, associated European Structural and Investment Funds, the Common Agriculture Policy and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund have done much to shape economic development priorities and accomplishments at national, regional and local level in Scotland and the UK, as throughout Europe in recent decades. 

The EU has provided farmers in our ‘Less Favoured areas’ with over 65% of their income. This money has transformed the economic and social wellbeing of our region in many ways, arguably to more positive effect than any comparable strategic policy initiatives of the Scottish or UK Governments. 

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund
To replace European Structural Funds following the UK's withdrawal from the EU, the UK Government has announced plans to establish a “Shared Prosperity Fund”. An all party parliamentary group conducted an initial inquiry into this Fund and their published recommendations in November 2018 show that major questions still remain unsolved:

·       How much funding will be available? 

·       How will it be divided up across the UK? 

·       What activities will be eligible for support? 

·       Who will take the decisions about how the money is spent?

Discussing the Shared Prosperity Fund at the Scottish Rural parliament last October, North Ayrshire MP Philippa Whiteford reported that only 2% of the fund was intended for the rural economy of the UK! There is currently no indication of what proportion of the fund will come to rural Scotland, and to less favoured areas such as the Highlands and Islands in particular.

A consultation was to have taken place in Autumn 2018 for the fund to be established by 2020, but this has yet to take place.  Assuming that we are still exiting from the EU, concern is now growing that nothing will be in place soon enough to ensure a smooth transition from EU funds on which the rural economy depends.

In Scotland, the National Council of Rural Advisers (NCRA) has come up with ideas for a new rural economy framework (Towards a new roadmap for the Scottish Rural Economy) that would support that transition, taking a top down approach. Island Councils have indicated that they would favour future funding mechanisms which restore decision making powers to regions i.e a more bottom-up approach.

This survey builds on the discussions at the S.I.F AGM in Tiree and is our chance to have a say as islanders. The Scottish Islands Federation invites your views to inform how a Shared Prosperity Fund might best operate in Scotland and what future regional and rural policies should look like. 

Please respond by Friday 8 February, tick as many options as you wish and add your own suggestions. The responses will be collated and presented to the Scottish Government.

Question Title

* 1. Please tell us:

Question Title

* 2. Who should be responsible for leading the design and delivery of the proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund?

Question Title

* 3. How should policy makers ensure that the economic needs of rural Scotland are taken into account?

  Most important Important Least important
a.Scotland should devise its own territorial cohesion policy replicating programmes such as LEADER and other European funding programmes.
b.There should be specific regional policies to favour assistance to the most disadvantaged regions and localities.
c.A place-based approach to development policy should ensure that sub-regional differences are addressed.
d.Regional skills assessments should inform policy.
e.Decentralisation should be at the heart of flexible new regional development policies.
f.By addressing recommendations of The National Council of Rural Advisors in their new blueprint for Scotland’s rural economy: a new Rural Economy Framework.

Question Title

* 4. In Scotland who should be involved in shaping policy?

  Most important Important Least important
a. Rural community organisations such as Development Trusts, Community Councils
b. Representative bodies such as Scottish Rural Action and Scottish Islands Federation
c. Local Athorities
d. Regional Planning Partnerships
e. Community Planning Partnerships
f. Development bodies such as HIE

Question Title

* 5. On what basis should be funding allocations be made?

  Most Important Important Least Important
a. As for current European funds
b. Evidence of need
c. Agreed long term (7 year+) structural objectives (independent of electoral spending cycles)
d. Inclusive, sustainable and smart growth
e. Aligning living standards across Scotland

Question Title

* 6. What key themes you would want to see addressed?

  Most Important Important Least Important
a. Attracting and retaining young people and families
b. Attracting and retaining migrant workers
c. Rural & Island housing issues
d. Transport including roads, piers and other major travel infrastructure
e. Health & social care provision
f. Community-led provision of services
g. Community sector capacity building for development and resiliance
h. Support to enable increased local decision-making
g. Sustainable tourism
i. Local food production/food security
j. Support for micro and small businesses
k. Support for the creative industries culture and social heritage
l. Natural eritahge and environmental protection
m. Mitigating climate change by funding transition to a fossil fuel free economy
n. Broadband
o. Mobile phone coverage

Question Title

* 7. How could the funding process be made easier?

Question Title

* 8. How should government be made accountable for their rural policy?

  Most Important Important Least Important
a. Use of appropriate indicators (eg regional, territorial, sustainability)
b. Use of indicators that capture social, environmental and economic contribution and impact
c. Impact assessment as in the Island Bill
d. Regular review (eg mid term review and end review) as for European Structural and Investment Fund
e. Embedding rural policy in National Performance Framework with annual reporting to parliament