Politicians’ concern for region after Brexit

MSP Finlay Carson
MSP Finlay Carson

National and local politicians have voiced their concerns this week for the economic future of the region in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Galloway MSP Finlay Carson said: “While the overall outcome was not the result I was hoping for, I am pleased that voters in Galloway wanted to remain. Our main priority should be on achieving stability and providing support and reassurance to the public, organisations and businesses across our region. Now is not the time to advance narrow political agendas. The last thing this Country needs is more uncertainty from the threat of another referendum on Scottish independence. Two million people voted to remain part of the United Kingdom less than two years ago, something that should not be forgotten, but instead respected. We need to come together and work to secure the best deal for Galloway, Scotland and for the United Kingdom.”

The leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council Ronnie Nicholson also voiced his concern about the negative economic impact the decision could have on the region.

Mr Nicholson commented: “The outcome of the EU referendum is clearly a significant one for people living across the UK and our region is no different. Building our economy and creating living wage jobs that are sustainable are our top priorities as a council and the result of the referendum brings huge uncertainty for our residents, businesses and employees.

“How the impact of the referendum may be mitigated in the future by the Council, Scottish or UK Governments is still uncertain and this presents a further significant risk to our financial planning in such times of austerity. In particular the impact on economic growth could have a major negative effect on the forthcoming spending review and subsequent financial settlement from the Scottish Government.

There are also a number of main programmes and activities that are currently funded through the EU so may be impacted on by the result of the referendum. Some specific Council programmes funded from the 2014-2020 EU Funding Programmes include:

The European Social Fund for employability which is worth £7m; the European Regional Development Funding worth £1.4m and the LEADER programme worth £6.1M. These grants alone support the jobs of some 50 staff directly employed on delivering these schemes and many more partners rely on this and other funding to support employment.

“Not being able to provide assurance on their future to these key groups is a major concern. In the past European structural funds have played a major role in development within our Region such as the A75 improvements and Forestry routes programme. European grants also underpin current critical national infrastructure projects such as Broadband roll out.

In addition, the Council has agreed to be a part of the proposed Business Loans Scotland which was to include European Regional Development Fund.

“For the wider partnership there are also national programmes delivered by Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Visitscotland and the Scottish Funding Council which will be affected. Further, there are implications for our Universities in relation to EU funded research grants.

“For our fragile rural economy there are significant funds disbursed by the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) including farm payments and land management programmes. These affect some 2000 businesses and represent over £85m for Common Agriculture Payments alone in 2015. The Third Sector may also be affected in relation to access to social enterprise development.

“Given the potential impact on our region, the Chief Executive has already commissioned a piece of work to consider in more detail the risks to our local economy, any legal and social implications and the risk to previously agreed and future funding streams.

“This will be informed by the emerging national picture and will be reported to members at the earliest opportunity. Clearly negotiations to implement the decision to leave the EU have obviously not yet begun and we are at the very early stages of that process, therefore these funding streams will continue for the time being and may indeed continue for some years. However, I give a commitment that I will lobby both the UK and Scottish Governments to ensure they take whatever action is required to protect these projects and funding for the lifetime of those projects.

“I also know that the Trade Unions are concerned at the possible impact the referendum result may have on employment rights. As a lifelong Trade Unionists, I can also give this commitment to our unions that for as long as I’m Leader, this council will do all we can to protect worker’s rights and lobby Government to ensure they do to.

“A full briefing note has been produced for members on the potential impact of the result and I will ask for copies to be circulated. As I have indicated as and when the picture becomes clearer, a report on the impact of the referendum result will be brought before members.”