Highlands and Islands set for EU funding debate

A DEBATE is to be held on how European funding will help shape the Highlands and Islands in the next seven years.

• University of Highlands and Islands to organise debate how EU support can develop region

• University director Linda Stewart praises impact of funding on economic and social development of area

The Highlands and Islands 2020 event has been organised at a crucial time in the development of European Union budgets for 2014-2020.

Organised by the University of the Highlands and Islands, and funded by the European Commission Representation in the UK, the free debate is open to anyone with an interest in how EU support can be used in the development of the region.

Linda Stewart, UHI director of European and international development, said: “EU funding has made such a difference to economic and social development across the Highlands and Islands over the past 20 years.

“We now have an opportunity to build on this towards 2020 and this debate should mark the start of this process.”

James Fraser, UHI’s principal and vice-chancellor, added: “European engagement has played a vital role in the university’s development.

“Much of our research and innovation, estates and infrastructure, curriculum development and wider access work has been funded by EU programmes and we’ve learned a lot about higher education provision in other remote, sparsely populated areas from working with partners across the EU.

“Looking towards the next programming period, we want to put something back - sharing the lessons we have learned about EU support and looking at how we can work collaboratively in new areas, particularly to develop research capacity in the region.”

Dirk Ahner, adviser to the commissioner for agriculture and rural development at the European Commission, is travelling from Brussels to speak at the event.

He said: “People in the Highlands and Islands can be proud of what they’ve achieved with EU support in terms of development in Scotland. The forthcoming programming period for EU funds offers new exciting opportunities - don’t miss them.”

The Highlands and Islands 2020 event takes place on Monday in Inverness.