EXCLUSIVE by Scottish Energy News Brussels Correspondent
The leader of the national association of Scotland’s local authorities has called on the UK government to ensure Scottish regions can participate in regional energy research and development programmes funded by the European Union after Brexit.
The demand by Alison Evison, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), comes just days after the European Commission proposed that British regions – like regions in non-EU states such as Norway and Switzerland – should be considered eligible to take part in cross-border projects funded by the EU’s Interreg programme after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
EU funded Interreg projects in Scotland include support for creative industries in Dundee and for the development of Irish-Scottish renewable-energy links.
The importance of continued co-operation between regions in the UK and the EU was highlighted at the meeting by, among others, leaders of local-government associations from the Republic of Ireland, Finland, France and Malta.
Councillor Evison was speaking in Brussels at a meeting of associations of local governments, where a range of speakers joined COSLA in voicing concerns at uncertainties created by Brexit.
The associations were convened by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), which has a consultative role in the EU’s decision-making. In a resolution in May, the CoR urged the EU to allow UK regions to participate “in EU cooperation programmes in a similar fashion that countries, such as, for instance, Norway or Iceland currently do”.
Evison said: “The recent announcement on Interreg, which COSLA and the CoR campaigned for, means that Scottish local communities can continue to be able to work and share best practice with their counterparts from the rest of Europe. The UK government must now confirm that it is willing to opt into this programme.”
Scotland’s politicians currently have an opportunity to shape political debate on EU issues through the CoR, which brings together 350 regional and local politicians from the EU’s 28 members.
Councillor Evison said: “COSLA welcomes the CoR’s decision, in May, to develop a Joint Committee structure to ensure the CoR’s own continued cooperation with UK local and regional authorities during the transition period and beyond. This will avoid a gap in relations as a result of withdrawal.”
One of the Scottish members of the CoR – Mairi Gougeon, the SNP MSP for Angus North and Mearns – was also recently appointed Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment in the Scottish government.
Meanwhile, Energy UK – the trade association for the GB energy sector – whose members include the Big Six – said yesterday that the uncertainty around whether the UK will remain in the European Emission Trading System (EU ETS) is already having a direct impact on the day-to-day business of energy companies.
Suppliers buy their energy days, months and years in advance to find the best deals and limit customers’ exposure to the market’s volatility.
Lawrence Slade, Energy UK chief executive, said:” With only nine months to until March 2019, the Brexit process seems to be timed from one European Council to another.
“Little new information has emerged from this June Council, however, on what the future holds or when the withdrawal negotiations might conclude and provide us with the clarity we desperately need on the future framework. We hope the upcoming White Paper will answer some questions.
“This opacity around what the future framework looks like and when it would begin has already started to impact the energy sector. In the energy world, operators have to plan in advance, because the delivery of energy into people’s homes and businesses is not a straight forward matter.”
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