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Highland Convener gathers support in Brussels for continued EU funding for Scotland's rural areas

Issued: 4 May 2010

The future of the Common Agricultural Policy and its likely impact in Scotland was discussed at the Committee of the Regions (CoR) on Monday 3 May with CoR member Councillor Sandy Park, Convener of The Highland Council, actively participating in the discussion stressing in particular the challenges facing Scotland's farmers and rural communities.

Councillor Park, who was attending his second meeting of the CoR's Natural Resources (NAT) Commission following his nomination to the CoR by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), said: "The future of CAP post 2013 is an issue which is generating huge interest and a great deal of political debate back home in Scotland. Highland is one of the largest local authorities in the whole of the EU and it is therefore very suitable that I am sitting on this Commission as its many important remits such as agriculture and maritime policy are of high significance to this area, not to mention the vital issue of the provision of public health services in rural communities."

Councillor Park tabled six out of the 90 Amendments - the only UK ones called on the need for rural development programmes being managed by Local Partnerships, targeting funds directly to local communities and ensuring that rural communities continue to receive EU funding in the future, irrespective of whether it is via CAP or the Structural Funds. All but one were accepted and most of them were used as the compromises on what was a very intense and politically sensitive vote.

Commenting on the day's discussions, Councillor Park said: "Today's debate with local government representatives all over Europe was very intense. We were trying to come to a joint view on whether the EU Common Agricultural Policy should be drastically reformed. At the centre of the discussion is whether funding for rural development should be separated for aid to farmers. The amendments I tabled for the vote, aimed at ensuring that Scottish rural communities do not become worse off by these changes."

He stressed the need for Councils to get involved in this debate: "I am in Brussels on behalf of all Scottish Councils, and therefore I would like to call on all of them to get engaged in these crucial discussions and work with myself and COSLA to ensure that Scottish views are strongly heard in this forum. The Committee of the Regions is a political platform that is available for the local level to lobby for their concerns in the EU. Now that the local budgets are being reduced and EU funds are being reviewed this is more important than ever. In my previous visit I met with George Lyon MEP who leads on this issue at the European Parliament to try to coordinate messages on the future of CAP."

Background: Councillor Park is one of the four CoR members nominated and supported by COSLA. The CoR also comprises the four MSP CoR Members
endorsed by the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish First Minister, who coordinates the Scottish appointments, submits the nominations to the UK Government for final appointment by the EU Council of Ministers. CoR Members are unpaid official representatives to the EU hence the CoR compensates them for their travel expenses.

© 2010 Highland Public Services Partnership.
Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the INTERREG IIIB Northern Periphery Programme