Leader: Don’t Leave rural communities without a lifeline

An EU funded route on Skye, the A855 Portree to Staffin road. Picture: Kenny MacCormack/Highland Council
An EU funded route on Skye, the A855 Portree to Staffin road. Picture: Kenny MacCormack/Highland Council
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THE impact of the referendum vote to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union continues to reverberate, ten days after the historic verdict shook the country’s political and economic foundations.

With the country in a state of flux, it is difficult to predict the exact effect the Brexit vote will have, but as Scotland On Sunday reports today, there are serious questions over what will happen to EU funding for infrastructure projects.

Those who travel in the more remote parts of the country, such as the West Highlands, will be familiar with road signs alerting drivers to the fact that an upgraded road or a new bridge had been part funded with EU assistance. Or perhaps a new ferry, to link the islands.

Such projects have become part of the development of rural areas, keeping them connected with the main population centres and helping to ensure that any disadvantage those communities experience through geographical location is kept to a minimum.

We have had reason to be grateful for assistance on this front, and now that the decision has been taken to cut ties with the EU, there will be doubts about whether the level of funding enjoyed will be made available by a UK government.

When the divorce takes place, will Westminster have the same vision for development projects that has existed up until now? During the referendum campaign, it was stated that in the first ten years of the EU’s regional funding project, Scotland was the third-highest recipient of funding. On this criterion, it is difficult to argue that the EU has been anything other than good for Scotland.

Of course, there were myriad other reasons for remaining or leaving, and for every pro, a con will be presented. But European funding has been central to the welfare of many of Scotland’s most fragile economies, a matter which is a world away from the UK-wide motivation for pulling out of the EU. For those who warned that Brexit would leave us diminished, nowhere can this be more true than in our remote communities.

For those affected, these are worrying times indeed.