Under the proposals which are being submitted by the UK government to the EU Commission, 40 per cent of the Scottish population will be covered by eligibility for Objective 2 assistance - aimed at areas suffering from industrial restructuring, urban deprivation, rural decline and fisheries dependence.
Mr Wilson said:
'The UK's proposals for areas to be covered by the new Objective 2 reflect Scotland's needs. The Scottish executive has been fully involved in this decision and the outcome of this provides a very good package for Scotland.
'Implementing the Objective 2 programme in Scotland will be a matter for the Scottish executive. This announcement shows how the Scottish Executive can work effectively with the UK government, in keeping with the spirit of the Concordats. These proposals will not change the total amount of money available to Scotland under the assigned budget.'
Mr McConnell said:
'The Scotland Office and the Scottish executive have worked closely together on these proposals and I am confident that they focus on areas of real need in Scotland. They will form a useful complement to the Assisted Areas map which was submitted to the Commission earlier this summer, and this is a very good deal. Scottish ministers are committed to regeneration of local economies and tackling deprivation. We can and will use these European funds to continue good local work towards these goals.
'Scotland has traditionally secured a good store of European Funding and these proposals will focus support on areas of real need.
'EU enlargement and Scotland's increasing relative economic prosperity in comparison to other parts of the EU and UK means that population coverage goes down. However, taken together with the special Highlands and Islands programme 2.4 million people in Scotland will be covered by the new regional programmes - a total well beyond the total EU-wide coverage of 40 per cent. Also, those areas which lose Objective 2 status will receive transitional funding until 2005 and have access to Objective 3 funding for training.
'Although European Structural Funds are only a small part of overall public expenditure in Scotland at£160m out of nearly£16bn we in the Scottish executive will now get to work to develop the plans and priorities that will use the new Funds to help build a better Scotland.
'European programmes remain an important priority for Scotland. We will work to ensure in the new programming round that the available resources are used as efficiently and effectively as possible in support of European and our own policy objectives.'