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MINISTER PRAISES SCOTLAND'S PERFORMANCE ON EU STRUCTURAL FUNDS

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Scottish executive finance minister Jack McConnell yesterday praised Scotland's performance in utilising European U...
Scottish executive finance minister Jack McConnell yesterday praised Scotland's performance in utilising European Union structural funds in the past and promised to ensure added value in the future.

Mr McConnell, who addressed the European committee of the parliament, said the new round of EU programmes would have maximum impact and result in a lasting legacy for Scotland.

The minister added: 'Scotland has a record which is second to none in maximising the utilisation of European structural funds. In the last round we spent fully 99% of the allocation of money available to us. Projects worth over£2.4bn were approved involving around£1bn of structural grant.

'This is testimony to the initiative and hard work of those organisations throughout the public sector and in every corner of Scotland who put forward bids for the money available.

'In the terms of the European Commission this was a 'flagship performance' that has been recognised throughout Europe. That is why, for example, Scotland is taking the lead in a partnership of European countries that is advising the Czech Republic in the utilisation of structural funds in the future.

'It is also a recognition that the UK has always met the EU criteria that structural funds expenditure is additional to domestic expenditure and is money that would not otherwise be spent at the local level.

'The fact that 99% of the available money has been spent is also a graphic demonstration that adequate matching funds have been available from local authorities and other public sector bodies.

'However, due to Scotland's increasing prosperity relative to the rest of Europe, it is likely that the amount of structural funds available will reduce in the years to come. It is therefore vital that those organisations which are successful in their applications for funds during the next round make the most of the money available and derive lasting benefit from it.'

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