Written evidence submitted by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (SPF0018)
UK Parliament Scottish Affairs Committee
Scotland and the Shared Prosperity Fund
What are the implications of the financial assistance powers in the Internal Market Bill and the announcements made by the UK Government in the 2020 Spending Review for the delivery of the Shared Prosperity Fund in Scotland?
HIE welcomes the opportunity to respond to this call for evidence. We recognise the substantial impact that European Structural and Investment Funds have had on the socio-economic development of the Highlands and Islands over the last three decades, in terms of infrastructure investment, business support, skills and employability programmes and community capacity building. We therefore see the proposed Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) as a key mechanism to support future development across the Highlands and Islands.
About Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is the economic and community development agency for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. We work in a diverse region which extends from Shetland to Argyll, and from the Outer Hebrides to Moray, covering more than half of Scotland’s land mass. We have offices across the region helping communities and businesses to develop and grow.
In recent months HIE’s focus has been on addressing the emerging fiscal, economic and social challenges of COVID-19. We have been responsive and re-prioritised to help ensure that individuals and businesses are able to access the support they need. However, our long-term vision remains unchanged: we want the Highlands and Islands to be a highly successful, inclusive and prosperous region in which increasing numbers of people choose to live, work, study, invest and visit. Our attention now is on maximising the region’s ability to weather the economic crisis and on facilitating a robust recovery.
HIE has played a leading role in the development, delivery and evaluation of successive EU Structural Funds programmes (including the ERDF INTERREG programmes), working closely with Scottish Government and other national and regional stakeholders. We were a strategic delivery body in the 2007–13 programme and are a lead partner in the current programme. We, and other stakeholders, have worked closely with the Scottish Government to develop Scotland’s position on the Shared Prosperity Fund and we support the approach detailed in that position.
We have noted the Internal Market Bill, particularly clauses 50-51 that provide UK ministers with the power to invest across all part of the UK for many of the purposes previously covered by EU Structural Funds. We have further noted the intention, highlighted in the UK Spending Review and subsequently confirmed in publicly released ministerial correspondence, that management of the Shared Prosperity Fund will be undertaken centrally by the UK Govt.
There is clearly, considerable further work to be done in developing the specific priorities to be addressed by the SPF; the scale, scope and timescales of funding, mechanisms for allocation of funds and management, administration and governance of the SPF. Regional stakeholders clearly have a valuable input to make to this.
In considering SPF development and delivery from a Scottish, and Highlands and Islands perspective, we would highlight the following points:
We recognise that the SPF, along with wider public funding, will be subject to UK Subsidy Control rules. HIE notes the recently issued consultation on subsidy control and it is our intention to submit a response to this.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise looks forward to engaging in the development and delivery of the Shared Prosperity Fund to the benefit of all parts of the region.
We would be happy to provide further information to the committee.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise
 Shared prosperity Fund - Scottish position