Just over a month after the EU Referendum and, whilst the full impact of UK decision to leave the European Union is still sinking in for politicians, for many organisations that depend on EU funding there is great uncertainty.
The extent to which we benefit may not be apparent as we go about our daily lives, but many things we take for granted have only been possible with the help of EU funding over the past 25 years, especially in areas like Lanarkshire where traditional industries have declined or disappeared altogether.
South Lanarkshire Council have utilised European Regional Development Funds for many projects in the area. A good example is the £235,000 received to help with the St. Bride’s Community Group Centre Project in 2010. Clyde Gateway have also successfully bid for EU funds for a variety of projects, including the Red Tree small business suites in Rutherglen.
Whitlawburn Community Energy project received £2.3 million to provide tenants with low carbon heating and lower energy bills. South Lanarkshire College received £700,000 to help build a new low carbon teaching facility and the College has accessed European Social Fund monies over many years to offer a variety of vocational courses, such as childcare, construction, IT and office skills to help people into work.
All of this is now at risk if Scotland is pulled out of the EU against its will, as the UK government refuses to guarantee similar funding will be available post Brexit.
Concerns about this funding uncertainty were raised by several Higher Education, business and voluntary organisations at a recent event I attended run by the Institute for Public Policy Research.
At the event First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, gave a speech about Scotland’s options for retaining our European status, not only to ensure our access to the EU Single Market, but also to the many benefits that EU funding brings to our urban and rural communities.
Against a backdrop of real detriment to our economy: a weak Pound, low interest rates, the effect on pensions and savings, low wage growth and the threat to workers’ rights, the First Minister set out five areas where the Government would be working to ensure that Scotland’s interests were protected in any UK wide Brexit negotiation discussions.
Our democratic interest – remaining in the EU was the choice of the Scottish electorate.
Our economic interest – almost half of our exports go to the EU. Maintaining our place within the single market is important. Our financial services benefit from EU membership. Our rural economy benefits from EU payments and our universities from research funding. Growing our population is vital to boost our economy, so free movement of people is crucial.
Our interest in social protection – workers’ rights, health and safety protection, safe limits on working hours, holiday and maternity entitlements are all protected under EU law. They may be seriously at risk if left to the devices of a right wing UK Tory government.
Our interest in solidarity – working together with other nations to protect the environment, on climate change policy and against the threat of crime and terrorism.
And, lastly, our interest in having influence. Nicola pointed out that we could end up in a position where we have to abide by all the rules of the single market, and pay to be part of it, but have no say whatsoever in what the rules are. That would be giving up control, not taking it back.
If these interests are not respected in the forthcoming UK negotiations the First Minister warned: “it will be people who pay the price in real life if jobs, investment and living standards suffer as a result.”
The Scottish Government does not intend to let that happen.