MEP Pushes for South of Scotland EU funds

01 February 2005
"I fully support the call by the South of Scotland Alliance to bring Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders together as one European region."

Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith has today (Tuesday) raised the problems faced by the South of Scotland at European level in the European parliament. Mr Smith has written to the Regional Commissioner, Danuta Hubner, asking her to support a call by the South of Scotland Alliance for the establishment of a new region eligible for European funding - The South of Scotland region.

In the Parliament's powerful regional Development Committee Alyn Smith MEP said:

"The current classifications for EU statistics, used to calculate eligibility for EU funding, just do not fit the reality on the ground in the South of Scotland. It could be referred to as Scotland's hidden region because it is obscured by the current numbers. "The Commission is obliged to bring forward a report outlining smaller units of statistics, by the end of this year. I'd like to know where the Commission is with that paper and when we will see it, what impact it will have on the current funding negotiations, and what scope exists for reopening the question of reclassification of the South of Scotland."

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Smith said:

"I was glad to hear that the Commission will bring forward their paper by the end of June at the latest. While they might not be too willing to reclassify the South of Scotland given that the Labour party is not backing us, I'll keep the pressure up to make sure that South of Scotland, and Scotland as a whole, do not lose out because our own government is not interested.

"The South of Scotland has a unique economic, geographical and cultural identity that Europe should recognise. Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders have shown how well they work together through the South of Scotland Alliance. They have also successfully demonstrated that the two areas share many of the same social and economic issues, in particular a scattered population and a lower economic growth rate than the rest of Scotland. The Alliance have a good case for having the boundaries redrawn."

"Douglas Alexander, the UK minister has said the government will not push for the boundary changes so I am asking the European Parliament and the Commission to look at the South of Scotland's case."

Note to Editors:

GDP figures show the South of Scotland region would have a GDP per capita, in comparison with the European average, of 73.7%. The current regions of East of Scotland and South Western Scotland have GDPs of 101.2% Scotland and 94.3% respectively.

The threshold for European Objective 1 funding is 75% of the European average GDP

The case for the South of Scotland to be identified as a distinct region can be found at http://www.southofscotland.org/xdocuments/3086.pdf (pdf document)