Interreg Projects Arrive in the East of Scotland
By the East of Scotland European Constortium
Last week (3-5 July) Angus Council and Fife Council both welcomed international delegations and high-profile guests to their respective territories as part of separate Interreg projects. Interreg is the EU fund which supports crossborder and transnational cooperation, and is of particular importance for local authorities.
In Carnoustie, Angus Council will held a mid-term conference on 5 July for its Interreg LIKE! project on digital innovation in the public sector. Speakers included Martyn Wallace, Chief Digital Officer at the Scottish Local Government Digital Office, Colin Birchnell, Chief Technology Officer at the Scottish Local Government Digital Office, and Kristina Reinsalu, Head of e-Democracy Domain at the e-Governance Academy in Estonia. 100 delegates from across Europe attended the conference.
Fife Council led a three day programme which started on Tuesday with an update to partners and external stakeholders on its Interreg Clipper project, followed by a provost reception in Dunfermline. On Wednesday delegates were taken on visits to the Fife Renewables Innovation Centre, Forth Ports and the University of St Andrews. The programme concluded on Thursday with a roundtable discussion with European Commission Director Bernhard Friess, who travelled from Brussels especially for the occasion. Mr Friess is the Director of the Directorate ‘Maritime Policy and Blue Economy’ at DG MARE.
Fife’s CLIPPER project is working to develop public policies to better support SMEs in the maritime sector as they diversify and change business practice to tackle new opportunities such as offshore renewable energy. This includes better understanding of newer financing platforms, such as crowdfunding to develop new sources of investment.It is one of three Interreg projects involving Fife Council, the other two being RIGHT and UNEET, which both focus on developing skills in key growth sectors.
LIKE! is Angus Council’s first Interreg project, and is already having a great impact since it was first approved two years ago. As part of the project, the council recently piloted a participatory budget event during which citizens in Montrose voted for local projects to address health and well-being priorities. Other pilots across the partnership include council/citizen chatbots, children’s services analytics, digital skills for employees, and hackathons for people with disabilities.
Scottish organisations have done very well in securing Interreg funding. Since the start of the current programme (2014), there have been 112 approved projects in Scotland, totalling an EU investment of €57,914,558.
ESEC chair, Councillor Ben Lawrie said “Interreg is an invaluable programme to councils, and not just in monetary terms. The LIKE! project has allowed us to learn from our colleagues in the Netherlands and Germany, and adopt some of these innovations in Angus. Leaving the EU does not need to mean an end to Interreg cooperation, as we could still participate as a third country as Norway does. There is widespread support across Scottish councils for staying in Interreg. Indeed, the European Commission recently agreed that the UK could opt-in post-Brexit. The ball is now in the UK government’s court, and we hope to see reference made to Interreg in the upcoming Brexit White Paper.”
Picture L-R – Iain Shirlaw, Fife Council; Agathe Fournier, Pays de la Loire; Bernhard Friess, European Commission; Ariane Lecerf, Pays de la Loire; George Sneddon, Fife Council