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HIGHLAND AND ISLANDS REFUTES EURO-FUNDING ERROR CLAIMS

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Inverness provost Allan Sellar has refuted claims from the Western Isles that the Highlands and Islands Partnership...
Inverness provost Allan Sellar has refuted claims from the Western Isles that the Highlands and Islands Partnership got its tactics wrong in campaigning for continuation of Objective One funding.

Mr Sellar, chairman of The Highland Council's Inverness committee, expressed his surprise at the comments made by councillor

Angus Graham, vice-convener of the Western Isles Council, given the support for the strategy given by the Western Isles Council and the successful outcome of the Berlin Summit negotiations in winning a further£210m for the area over the next six years.

He said: 'The Western Isles has received over 18% (£23m) of Objective 1 money, with only have 8% of the population. That extra money comes from Inverness because we have the largest population base in the Highlands and a significant part of the European money is based on population size. If Inverness had been taken out of the bid to Europe, the sum of money available would have dropped dramatically and the councillor Graham would have scored a monumental own goal.

'I suppose if you take Stornoway out of the Western Isles, that would have helped reduce the GDP figures as well. Any region of Europe could try to take their most prosperous towns out to qualify - that is why Europe doesn't allow this.

'In any event, taking Inverness out would not have made the difference to the GDP figures that councillor Graham wants. In order to get the figures below the 75% GDP level would have required Shetland, Orkney, Caithness, Sutherland, Ross & Cromarty, Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey and rural Moray to be taken out as their GDP figures are the same or higher than Inverness. If that had happened you would not have been left with a region to receive what is a regional aid package.

'If councillor Graham is now saying the Western Isles does not want to accept any money that could be said to have been 'earned' based on the Inverness population, I am sure that would be very welcome in Inverness, but I am not sure how that will serve the development needs of the Western Isles. Equally, there are key regional projects where Inverness can benefit from European aid such as the new airport

terminal.'

He stressed that the Western Isles Council had agreed to the strategy adopted and added: 'Instead of looking to blame Inverness, councillor Graham should be thankful we are happy to see some of the money that should be rightfully ours going to the Western Isles, because we recognise their higher needs.'

NOTES

The official European statistics which form the Inverness statistical unit includes the whole of rural Inverness, the town of Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey and much of rural Moray. Shetland, Orkney and the statistical unit of Caithness, Sutherland, Ross

& Cromarty, all have the same or higher GDP than the Inverness statistical unit.

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