Council Leader demands action on transport and access from Europe for Highlands and Islands

Leader of The Highland Council, Councillor Drew Hendry has used his position as the UK representative to the Conference of Peripheral and Maritime regions (CPMR) to demand attention to key issues affecting the Highlands and Islands and aligned UK regions at the annual General Assembly of the CPMR last week in Umea, North Sweden.

Councillor Hendry said: “People aren’t always aware that decisions taken in Europe on funding and support can benefit our regions directly, millions of Euros of spending decisions can be made that can help us in many ways. That is why it is critical to raise our issues early, otherwise, we might miss out on the opportunities for extra money and support on issues that will directly affect the future of our regions.

“At this CPMR general assembly, we successfully amended proposals on jobs for young people in rural areas, on support for Highlands and Islands ports and harbours and, critically, on what is termed “Accessibility” but translates as transport and communications infrastructure. This means that we have demanded that our regions are included within the planning on European development instead of as an after-thought.

“Our future road, rail, sea and air links can all be better supported if our views are represented from the outset. I am pleased that our amendments drew enthusiastic support from similar regions around Europe and throughout Scandinavia resulting in unanimous acceptance. Many of those representing similar regions told me that they too faced similar challenges and were pleased that we had stated the case for the Highlands and Islands.”

Leader Hendry promoted the UK members call for:

  • A continued pressure on the European Commission to build into future plans the need to develop communication links to the peripheral regions of the Union. To include all forms of transport - road, rail, sea and air.
  • For the European Commission to take account of the need for differing models of delivering vocational training and regional development. To take account of the needs of rural and peripheral regions.
  • An integrated approach to the use of EU funding strands in regional  economic development and the promotion of what is being termed “blue growth”  - the development of the marine environment.
  • A greater role for the regions in the delivery of regional development and for this to include the citizens, that organisations like Highland Council, seek EU funding for.
  • That the European Union takes specific recognition of the needs of the EU’s demersal fishery in implementing the drive in the Common Fisheries policy to land all catches in its desire to eliminate discarding fish from catches. This is particularly relevant to the demersal fishery where typically a range of species are caught some of which will be non-quota stocks which should not be set against established quota as this will reduce the ability of the fleet to catch its quota of saleable fish and induce unprofitability.
  • For support to be offered to the EU ports and the merchant fleet as it adopts technology to meet the Sulphur Directive which will severely limit the amount of sulphur emissions from traditional maritime fuel. The imposition of a 0.1% limit in the North Sea (0.5% in the Baltic sea) by 2015 and 0.5% by 2020 will  impose considerable additional costs to the sector as it invest in new engines and or more expensive lower sulphur content fuel. This also presents an opportunity for the EU to promote and deliver cleaner (greener) shipping by the use of renewable fuels and in port electricity which means engines can be shut down when in port. 

The CPMR is a network of peripheral and maritime regions. The Conference which has some 150 members from across Europe is the pre-eminent lobbying organisation for local and regional government in its engagement with the institutions in Brussels – European Commission, European Parliament, the European Council and the Court of Auditors.

Such is the status of CPMR it is regularly used by the European Commission and Parliament to gauge the views of the regions in the development of new legislation, directives and development initiatives.

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3 Oct 2014
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