Government to review European Structural Funds which directly impact social enterprises in Scotland
Critics worried about impact of Brexit on the future of EU funds in Scotland
The Scottish government is conducting an early review of European Structural Funds (ESF) as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.
The review will look at what needs to be done to maximise outcomes and absorptions of the funds, as well as the smart, sustainable and inclusive goals that were set at the national and EU level.
Currently, £700 million pounds of funding from the EU, including that from the ESF, has been guaranteed by the UK government for farming, fishing and structural projects in Scotland, said finance secretary Derek Mackay.
“It is clear that the best way to guarantee the jobs, investment, services and projects which depend on this funding is by maintaining Scotland’s relationship with Europe and our place in the single market, which is why the Scottish Government will set our proposals in the coming weeks to protect our interests in the face of a potential hard Brexit by the UK,” he said. “We will continue to engage with HM Treasury to get clarity on longer term funding arrangements for after the point the UK leaves the EU.”
The government’s four-month exercise will see them engaging with stakeholders, committees and lead partners. The results are expected to be published in June, after consideration by the joint programme monitoring committee.
The review comes amid concerns over the fate of future projects and enterprises that are reliant on EU funding. The EU currently helps fund areas including employment, innovation, education, poverty reduction, climate and energy.
According to Social Enterprise Scotland, the bulk of funding for social enterprises comes from the ESF and European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) programmes, and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
Critics have hit out at the British government’s lack of detail, attention and alternatives for Scotland and groups that rely on EU funding.
Under the ESF 2014-2020 programme, a total €466 million was set aside for Scotland, while 123 projects have already been approved for funding, said economic secretary to the Treasury Simon Kirby.
“All European structural and investment funds projects signed before last year’s autumn statement will be guaranteed, including those funded by the ESF. That also includes those projects that will continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU,” he said in a debate on January 10.
“Moreover, funding for projects signed after the autumn statement, but before we leave the EU, will also be guaranteed – that is, providing that the responsible department is content that the projects provide strong value for money and are in line with domestic strategic priorities, which are both reasonable points.”
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on February 22nd to clarify how the EU’s funds are used.