The Scottish Government has proposed creating a new administrative region called Southern Scotland which could affect how hundreds of millions of pounds of European Union money is distributed.
European statisticians currently divide Scotland into four large regions – Eastern, North Eastern and South Western Scotland, plus Highlands and Islands – to inform regional policy development and determine regional funding.
EU funds – which amount to around £670 million in the latest seven-year spending round – are distributed based on productivity per head in each region.
The Scottish Government has now proposed creating a fifth region which would cut the size of South Western Scotland by more than a third – stripping out around 833,000 people and combining them with 113,000 from Eastern Scotland. The new region could comprise around a million people from the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and North Ayrshire council areas.
The Scottish Government is inviting comments on the proposed changes, and advised that they could create “statistical issues”.
A consultation document states: “Boundary changes cause a discontinuity in the series and make it difficult to determine if a change in the statistics is due to a change in the geography or a change in the character of the area.
“The statistics supplied to the EU at Nuts (Nomenclature of Units for Territorial Statistics) regions are used to formulate regional policy initiatives and to determine regional funding allocations and eligibility.
“Any changes to the boundaries of Nuts regions will impact on the statistics used in these policies and which areas are affected by these policies.
“e941 million (£670m) of Structural and Investment Funds were allocated over seven years from 2014 to 2020 to Nuts regions in Scotland,” added the document. “Changing the boundaries of these regions may, in the long term, affect the levels of support different areas are eligible for, as Structural Funds are distributed based on GDP per capita in each region and changing the boundaries could change the figures.”