SNP Welcome Highlands and Islands Funding Commitment

23 October 2006
Alyn Smith MEP has today welcomed the UK government's announcement of European funding for the Highlands and Islands for the next seven years.

The London government today finally announced that the Highlands and Islands will receive €158 million from 2007 - 2013 to help boost economic growth, education and training and infrastructure in the region.

The SNP's Europe Spokesman Alyn Smith who campaigned throughout the EU budget process for additional funds for the Highlands and Islands welcomed the news but warned that it is likely to be the last major injection of EU funding for the area.

Speaking on his way to Strasbourg Mr Smith said

"This money will make a significant difference to the Highlands and Islands and allows many valuable projects to continue as well as offering prospects for further economic growth through infrastructure improvements, but it must be spent wisely.

"This announcement has been a long time coming due mainly to the UK government's failure to do a budget deal until the last possible moment. It is now vitally important that programmes are put in place as quickly as possible and bids accepted for funding from 2007 to ensure there is no funding gap.

"It is unfortunate that the Highlands and Islands are still facing questions over the use of previous EU funds at a time when we should be looking forward.

"The SNP has always supported the Highlands and Islands in its claim for European funding and this budget is significantly higher than the UK had originally wanted. The Labour and Liberal Dem administration were happy to see the area get nothing.

"We must remember that this is not the only option available for project funding in the Highlands and Islands. Joint projects with Ireland and Northern Ireland are another option as is making use of funds for research and development or for more remote areas. "An SNP government under Alex Salmond will make the most of what Europe has to offer and ensure that opportunities for European funding don't pass Scotland by."

ENDS

Note to Editors

The breakdown of EU funding for Scotland is as follows

UK total €9.6 billion

Main Competitiveness Funding - Scotland €573 million

Convergence Funding Highlands & Islands €158 million

Total €731 million