Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant (pictured) has today urged the UK Government to look again at where the Highlands and Islands are placed on the Levelling Up Fund.
Mrs Grant today, has written to Michael Gove in the UK Government expressing her disappointment that the Highlands and Islands have been placed in level 2 or 3 of the fund despite the recognition from the EU in the past that the area is disadvantaged.
Councils in the region have expressed concerns that the amount of money that is hoped to be provided by the Levelling Up fund will not amount to the same as the financial support given by the EU in the past.
In her letter to the UK Government Mrs Grant says:
“Rural poverty and depravation do not show up easily in the indicators used by both the Scottish and UK Government, which is largely postcode based.
“In rural areas the poor live side by side with the very rich and therefore the real disadvantage faced in these communities is hidden.
“In Highland many of these issues are also masked because of the success of Inverness compared with the rest of the area.
“Outside Inverness, throughout the Highlands and Islands, this manifests itself through depopulation.
“Our young people are forced to leave to seek employment and housing and many areas are extremely fragile because of this.
“You may also be aware that the Scottish Government appear to be committed to centralisation which exacerbates these trends.
“The Gaelic language is also impacted as native speakers are forced out.”
Speaking afterwards Mrs Grant said:
“I’m very concerned that the Highlands and Islands region is missing out in comparison to the support they may have had from the EU.
“Our region needs more, not less, support to tackle the very real concerns that I think we can all see.
“To see Highland be placed in level 3 is laughable when you read the purpose of the fund. “The index used is flawed and does not consider our sparsely populated areas where many, rich and poor, share a postcode.
“I will continue urging the UK Government to re-think their decision.”
The UK wide Levelling UP Fund is a £4.8billion fund which focuses on investing in infrastructure including regenerating town centres, high streets, upgrading local transport and investing in cultural and heritage assets.
This is a competitive fund which targets places with the most significant need, as measured by an index of characteristics including need for economic recovery and need for improved transport connectivity.
Investment will be prioritised for the local areas that are most need of “levelling up” with each local authority being given a category of 1, 2 or 3 against this criterion.
Highland Council has been assessed as a category 3 area which is the lowest category in terms of need based on the metrics used.
Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar has been assessed as a category 2.