Brexit was the “worst case of self harm” ever seen, according to an SIC councillor.
Shetland Central’s Davie Sandison made the gloomy assessment after hearing about the UK government’s attempts to replace EU funding with far lesser sums.
The “UK Shared Prosperity Fund” will provide Shetland with £1.859m from 2022-25, as replacement for EU structural and investment funds – a figure which SIC members felt was a “considerable drop”.
Speaking at today’s (Wednesday) special council meeting, Mr Sandison said: “It’s very clear to me that we are almost compounding the downsides of Brexit every time we come up with a report like this.”
Depute leader Gary Robinson was also dismissive of the UK government’s funding offer.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that this is significantly less than we might otherwise have seen, although clearly there’s not a lot we can do about that now,” he said.
“I would reflect, though, that the comment used to be that European money was just our taxes that we got back.
“We seemed to get significantly more back from Brussels than we appear to be getting back from Westminster, which is obviously regrettable.”
Mr Robinson noted that as far back as 2006 the SIC’s head of development had reported that Shetland had received £275m of EU funding – adding that the Mareel project alone received £2.8m.
A number of councillors quizzed the SIC’s economic development manager Tommy Coutts on how the UK government’s offer compared.
Although Mr Coutts said it was “awful difficult to give a definitive answer” he eventually conceded that colleagues felt it was a “lower value”.
“That’s probably as far as I can go without straying into political territory,” he said.
Mr Coutts said the council had been asked to complete an investment plan on how it would use the funding by August.
He said the SIC had decided to prioritise projects currently funded through EU schemes, specifically employability services.
“It’s considered essential to continue that provision to support people with barriers to employment and support vulnerable individuals’ access to jobs,” he said.
The council will also seek to use the finding to support the development of energy skills transition, local place planning activity and rural retail services.
Around £321,000 of the funding must be allocated to the “Multiply” programme, which is a new scheme to develop adult numeracy.
Councillors agreed the approach and granted delegated authority to chief executive Maggie Sandison to submit the investment plan on the council’s behalf.