Highlands & Islands

Scottish islands councils raise Brexit funding concerns

Tarbert, Harris Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Islands councils are concerned about future support for their areas

Scotland's islands local authorities have sought assurances from the UK government on financial assistance after Brexit.

Under the European Union's development programme for peripheral areas, the islands and the Highlands receive funding for infrastructure projects.

The UK government pledged to set up a fund to help compensate for the loss of EU support.

Islands councils want to know what progress has been made with this fund.

The UK government said it was continuing to make "great progress" on the design of the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), and was preparing to consult on its plans.

The local authorities involved run services in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles.

'Pretty fundamental points'

Malcolm Burr, chief executive of Western Isles local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said the islands councils "desperately" needed to know details of the fund.

He said: "What we still don't know is in relation to the quite substantial issues such as how much funding will be available, how it will be divided up across the UK, what activities will be eligible for support and also who will take decisions over how the money is spent?

"These are pretty fundamental points and we still don't have sufficient detail on that.

"It's our argument as local authorities in the Highlands and islands that we should know that because it's in the UK government's hands as a domestic matter."

He added: "Given we are about to come out of the EU at the end of March, and the current programme comes to an end in 2020, we need to know pretty soon what the criteria are, what the amounts are and what it means to the Highlands and islands."

'Consult shortly'

The UK government said it recognised the importance of reassuring communities on the future of local growth funding once the UK has left the EU.

A spokesman said: "We have continued to make great progress on the design of the UKSPF over the past year, ahead of the forthcoming consultation.

"Consultation events have been held across the UK, in order to aid policy development.

"The UKSPF consultation will build on these conversations and we intend to consult shortly."