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By a Newsnet reporter
Scottish Secretary of State Michael Moore has been urged to be part of 'Team Scotland' in talks aimed at ensuring Scotland gets a more equitable share of the UK's European Structural Funding grant.
The calls follow revelations on Tuesday that show Scotland is facing a cut of over thirty per cent in its funding, six times the UK rate, if the formula agreed by the UK Government is implemented.
In a statement, SNP MSP Dave Thompson questioned why the Scotland Office has not done more within the UK government and in EU discussions to protect the position of Scotland at the outset, and urged the Scottish Secretary to help fight Scotland's corner in helping to achieve an equitable outcome.
The formula used to establish how much each area receives is heavily biased towards densely populated regions. Mr Thompson is MSP for Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch, the Highlands and Islands will be hit badly if the estimated £1/4 billion shortfall to Scotland’s funding is realised.
Speaking yesterday, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed that other countries engaged in EU talks had obtained special agreements relating to areas of particular economic need within their own jurisdictions; however the Westminster Government had sought no such special deal.
Ms Sturgeon has already confirmed that the UK government has agreed to talks on how the structural funds will be allocated.
The new structural fund methodology comes as a result of the recently signed EU Multi-Annual Financial Framework – but the final EU budget has still to be agreed by the European Parliament and final allocations have still to be agreed both at EU and UK level.
Commenting, Dave Thompson said:
“Scotland is not yet an independent member state of the European Union, but it is clear that the devolved Scottish Government is doing everything it can to protect Scotland’s interests and ensure that we don’t get an unfair, disproportionate cut in EU structural funding. We need an outcome that is equitable for Scotland and for the Highlands and Islands.
“It is good news, as Nicola Sturgeon has set out to the Scottish Parliament, that there are to be talks with the Westminster government and with the other devolved administration to reach a fairer allocation, and I welcome the constructive engagement by UK ministers in this regard.
“The question does have to be asked about what the Scotland Office has been doing – or perhaps not doing – as these initial figures have been produced. Until Scotland becomes an independent country, the issue of EU structural funding is the responsibility of the UK as the member state, and the Scotland Office clearly has a role to play.”
As Secretary of State for Scotland, Lib Dem MP Michael Moore’s role is as official spokesman on behalf of Scotland at UK Cabinet meetings. However, since the possibility of a huge funding loss emerged, there has been little by way of public statements from Mr Moore.
The current formula would see Scotland lose out massively, with Wales and Northern Ireland also hit by cuts, however England would in fact see a small increase.
In a statement, the Scottish Office - headed by Mr Moore - called the EU deal “a good result for the UK” adding that it would “benefit UK taxpayers”.
A spokesman added: “Officials in Defra and BIS are working with Scottish Government officials on what this will mean for funds through CAP and Structural Funds.”
SNP MSP Mr Thompson added: “I very much hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore will work closely with the Scottish Government as part of 'Team Scotland', and promote Scotland's case.
“A reduction in structural funding was always expected, but to see Scotland lose a disproportionate amount would be unacceptable. I am optimistic that a positive solution to this can be found - the Scottish Government will work constructively to find a way forward, and it is important that the Scotland Office also plays its role as part of 'Team Scotland'.”