PART 1: INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE
1. European Funds have played an important role in supporting reform and recovery in the Scottish economy over the current funding period. The current programmes will end on the 31 December 2013 and by the time all the project complete, will have delivered £700 million of European Structural Funds into innovation, low carbon, sustainable transport, tourism infrastructure, business support, skills and community development.
2. Attention is naturally turning to preparations for 2014-20, which are well underway. The rules and purpose around the funds will change considerably to include a tighter focus, alignment between all EU Funds and a renewed focus on delivering outcomes. In addition to this change, we need to learn the lessons from the issues we have encountered during the current programmes, including audit difficulties, the availability of match funding and the level of impact we would like these funds to have in Scotland. All of these matters should inform how we go forward.
3. In May 2013, the Scottish Government launched a public consultation to gather views on the Government's strategy, governance and delivery proposals for ESI Funds 2014-2020, and to gather views on the specific of the Structural Funds arrangements (a separate consultation was also held on the detail of the Rural Development Fund and Programme). The proposals are to centre the next programmes on a small number of strategic interventions, aimed at either significant issues to address or significant opportunities to capitalise on. These strategic interventions will be fronted, match funded and managed by a lead partner; but will continue to use a wide range of organisations to deliver on-the-ground outcomes.
4. Over the summer months we received 84 response to that consultation, and published an analysis 1 which showed broad agreement with the direction of change; but also sought considerably more detail on the practicalities.
5. We also commenced a series of shadow Strategic Delivery partnerships to discuss and explore those practicalities. This had a particular focus on developing the large-scale strategic interventions which these funds support, defining the outcomes, the level of possible funding, the balance between different thematic objectives, and the fit with domestic funding.
6. Partnership working has been very much the ethos of the development of the 2014-2020 programme, and will continue to be so. By combining a broad consultation with detailed and intensive work with smaller groups of partners, we have identified a series of integrated activities which look realistic, fundable and capable of significant impact. These proposals will be further developed and refined over the coming months - they have flowed from the evaluation of needs and opportunities, and the direction of the Partnership Agreement; and they will now in turn give shape to the Structural Funds Operational Programmes.
7. This document updates stakeholders on these developments and the proposals that have come out of this partnership work. It incorporates the SG reaction to Consultation Responses, explaining where the wider stakeholder engagement has impacted on the detailed work to develop and distil proposals.
8. This document is also intended to give a clear sense of the content of the technical documents (Partnership Agreement and Structural Funds Operational Programmes) we will have to submit to the Commission to commence the next programmes, including the selection of investment priorities and thematic objectives. Although not a full formal consultation, it offers a further chance to comment before those documents are fully developed.
9. Finally, it sets out next steps for ensuring the Structural Funds programmes can start as quickly as possible, without compromising on the required set-up, rules and guidance.
10. A separate consultation will also shortly be available on the detail of the Scottish Rural Development Programme.
11. Written comments on these proposals are welcome and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be helpful in finalising the technical documentation, and in negotiating this with the UK Government and the Commission, if these reach us before 17 January 2014.