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Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh
21st May 2013 - EU reaches out to Scottish local authorities



EU in Brussels

Scotland’s 32 unitary authorities will be glad to hear that the European Commission would like them to become more involved in its affairs.

The Councils are already able to apply for EU funding in a range of – it has to be admitted, rather complicated – ways.

The European Regional Development Fund helps regeneration in less developed areas of the EU. Projects have to comply with three themes of sustainability, equal opportunities and social inclusion. In the budget up to this year, Scotland received over €480 million under the scheme.

But we could be getting more. While some of our councils have managed to get to grips with the complexities of putting in applications, others feel overwhelmed by it. There is lots of online information as well as some useful links here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Business-Industry/support/17404/8424

Although I accept that when people start hearing about the institutions of Europe they can’t be blamed for starting to switch off but I do feel that this is an important source of funds to some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged areas.

This is a good example of one of the reasons why I’d like to be elected to the European Parliament. I would then be better placed to provide information to Scotland’s councils in terms that are more workable. Hopefully then, those councils themselves might be better equipped to make those applications for funding.

And of course as an independent country, Scotland would immediately receive more EU Structural Funds and have the freedom to decide upon the best distribution of those funds.

But it’s good news that the Commission wants to give local authorities more of a voice and I hope the Scottish ones exploit the opportunity.

The Commission says it’s taking “a territorial approach to development” and says it could “trigger a change in the quality of citizens’ life and wellbeing”.

Behind this is the Commission’s recognition that it needs to decentralise more and that this will help boost what those local authorities can do. They say they want to involve local authority associations in the implementation of the programmes it finances and help in the establishment of partnerships between its own local authority associations and those of partner countries.

There’s a real indicator here that the Commission wants to develop more political, administrative and fiscal autonomy for local authorities, bringing them more actively into the whole development process.

The EU includes 500 million people. Its Commission is well aware that each member nation wants to be involved in the action. An independent Scotland will be there too.

See: www.tasmina.eu


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