Leaving the European Union will have significant implications for regional and local development in Scotland. It will mean loss of access to both the European Social Fund (ESF) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). These funds have played a significant role in Scotland's economic development over the last four decades.
The UK Government has stated its intention to create a successor for these funds, which will be called the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). Details on the size, structure, objectives, and governance of the UKSPF are not yet available, though, under present plans, ERDF and ESF funding will effectively end this year.
To ensure how this replacement fund can best meet the needs of Scotland's citizens, businesses and communities, the Scottish Government has consulted with these groups to better understand their views on how the successor funds might be structured. A group of experts was established to develop, through consultation and research, the preferred Scottish position on the replacement for ERDF and ESF. This Steering Group comprised members with strong expertise in the management and administration of various funding programmes and the delivery of social and economic policies. I would like to personally thank each of the members for their work.
Together with an online consultation, the consultation process was supported by a series of eight workshops to engage with stakeholders around the country - from Dumfries to Kirkwall, from Stornoway to Edinburgh. In addition, two thematic events seeking participants' views on skills, employability innovation and academia were held under the auspices of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Collectively, these ensured that national, regional and local perspectives were gathered.
This report pulls together the findings from this range of engagement exercises and offers interesting insights into the needs and wishes of many sections of Scottish society regarding the UKSPF. It will help guide the Scottish Government's approach to proposals for this fund when they are brought forward by the UK Government.
The Steering Group also looks forward to the publication of the UK Government's proposals and will be sure to maintain its engagement in this process to promote the views of Scottish individuals, businesses and communities.
Professor David Bell - University of Stirling
European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Replacement Consultation Steering Group Chair