Southern European partners chose Highlands and Islands for mutual learning on regional development

Scotland Europa member, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, recently hosted a peer to peer learning visit by seventeen delegates from the recently formed Southern Sparsely Populated Areas group (SSPA) to learn about HIE’s success over 50 years of economic and community development. The SSPA recognised the need to seek out good practice in addressing their particular challenges and identified the Highlands and Islands as a particularly relevant source of learning. 

Each area is challenged by sparse and declining population and the group chose to visit the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to understand how, over the last 50 years, the region has successfully reversed population decline and taken an ambitious and innovative approach to economic and community development. (HIDB / HIE 50 years timeline)

The visit was supported by the TAIEX - REGIO Peer to Peer programme facilitating the exchange of ideas and good practice between experts in regional development. It’s the first time a Scottish organisation has been involved in this programme.

The SSPA group brought together representatives of public administration, local action groups and business organisations from five areas of Southern Europe:

  • Teruel, Aragon – Spain
  • Cuenca, Castilla La Mancha – Spain
  • Soria, Castilla y Leon – Spain
  • Lika Senj County – Croatia
  • Evrytania – Greece

 The visiting delegation heard about the pivotal role played by Highlands and Islands Enterprise in supporting the region’s businesses and communities, investing in regional infrastructure and working with regional partners, taking a holistic approach to regional development.

They also heard about the impact that the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) has had on development of the region, enabling access to further and higher education across all parts of the region and focusing research efforts on the particular challenges and opportunities in the region.

Delegates had the opportunity to visit a number of community development projects, seeing for themselves the energy and innovation at work.  Visits also took place to local enterprises to understand how they grow their business, sell to global markets and attract talented people.

The group is now considering how the learning and good practice can be applied in their own regions. Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the visiting group are keen to keep in touch and maintain this collaborative relationship.

For more information, contact Rob Clarke at Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Rob Clarke - Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE)