Break from capital could open door to EU millions

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The Borders economy is set to benefit if a proposal to redraw the map determining which areas of Scotland qualify for EU support gets the go-ahead.

Since 1998, EU statisticians have divided Scotland into four large regions to inform major structural funding decisions – Eastern, Western, North-Eastern and Highlands & Islands.

The Borders has been lumped in with Edinburgh in the Eastern region, while neighbouring Dumfries and Galloway is in the Glasgow-dominated Western zone.

EU funding eligibility takes account of each of these region’s gross domestic product (GDP) as an indicator of economic output and performance. It is a broad brush approach which fails to acknowledge that, while GDP per head (expressed in the purchasing power standard currency of the EU), in the Eastern region is 29,900, it is only 18,600 in the Borders – well below the Highlands & Islands figure of 22,000. A similar iniquity exists in the Western region.

After extensive lobbying by the two councils, the Scottish Government has now announced plans to embed the two areas in a fifth region – Southern Scotland – which will also embrace the low GDP council areas of North, South and East Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire. The proposal, out to consultation until January 15, would take effect from 2018 if finally approved by the UK Government.

“I’m pleased to say this move has the support of all three south of Scotland MPs [David Mundell, Calum Kerr and Richard Arkless],” said Councillor Stuart Bell, SBC’s executive member for economic development.

“For too long, the low GDP in the south of Scotland has been masked by its aggregation with higher GDP areas like Glasgow and Edinburgh.

“It’s little wonder there has been a sense of injustice that the Highlands and Islands, which has a much higher per capita GDP than the Borders, has been getting a disproportionate share of vital EU structural funding.

“If we get this new designation recognised, it has the potential to have an enormous positive impact for this region.”