Scottish report on post-2020 Interreg

During August and September 2019, the Scottish Government in collaboration with public sector organisations across Scotland, held a series of workshops on Post 2020 Interreg cooperation. The purpose was to gauge views and interests of Scottish stakeholders on the benefit of European territorial cooperation and to identify the cooperation themes and territorial links of greatest priority for any future territorial cooperation post-2020. This series of workshops was followed by a high-level ministerial event to show-case the impact of the Interreg VA (Ireland- Northern Ireland – Scotland Cross-Border Programme) in Scotland.

Scotland Europa commissioned EPRC to write a report capturing these views in order that these discussions might inform positions on the future development and implementation of cooperation at Scottish and UK levels. 

The recurring theme across all the key contributors was the added value of European territorial cooperation.  We invite you to read the full report to see the full breath of discussion but have summarised some of the key points of the workshops below.

Key messages on the value of Interreg:

  • Good experience and engagement with past programmes and projects means there is a strong commitment to on-going participation in Interreg in Scotland.  There is a commitment to more collaborative working in the future, building on existing networks and results, and bringing forward new ideas and opportunities. As opposed to weakening commitment to cooperation programmes, current challenges and uncertainties have led to a clearer appreciation of what is gained from European Territorial Cooperation and intensified interest in pursuing opportunities for future collaboration.
  • ETC/Interreg programmes and projects offer the chance to work within strategically relevant and ‘relatable’ areas of activity for Scotland alongside territories with the same, similar, or related opportunities and challenges. The result is the opportunity to both extend and up-scale activities and engage and embed at local level.
  • Stakeholders place importance on being able to work across not just borders but also specialisms, sectors and levels in key areas. Scope to initiate and extend innovation and competitiveness through collaboration and learning is highly valued. 
  • Through cooperation, partners have built critical mass to develop, test and pilot specialised/tailored/innovative actions and activities in ways that would not be possible working in isolation.
  • The opportunity for cross-fertilisation of learning and ideas, appreciation of the operational and business culture of near neighbours based on ‘lived experience’ of working alongside partners, international contacts for present and subsequent work, and fresh perspectives on issues were all valued aspects.
  • As well as the formal links, the informal exchanges and interpersonal links were identified as invaluable for building an enthusiasm and ‘excitement’ in participants which they can bring back to their own organisations. This is especially important at a time of rapid change, uncertainties and financial pressures, where perspectives can narrow and become more insular.
  • The recognition that Scottish partners have a lot to offer as well as opportunities to learn has been important in building confidence and giving profile and perspective to stakeholders.
  • Interreg programmes offer access to a distinct funding resource, without parallels in domestic policy. The pooling of resources and knowledge delivers new opportunities and cooperation initiatives and provides funding for actions that do not necessarily fall within the remit of nationally-based or sectoral policies. EU cooperation programmes can offer funding in niche and innovative policy areas and around shared spaces and resources.
  • Whilst it was acknowledged that Interreg projects are not straightforward and that it can take time for projects and project partners to find their feet, get going, and build relationships. However, Scottish partners have worked hard to build these links and understanding, the programmes are at a point where they will really be ‘coming into their own’ in terms of how they work and what they can deliver.

Key messages on the areas of interests:

Participants listed themes/issues/territories of particular interest as having potential for future cooperation. Smarter and greener are clear ‘stand out’ themes for Scottish stakeholders with cutting across objectives, and objectives in their own right in relation to key sectors. Scottish stakeholders felt that by grounding interventions in the Smarter and Greener themes it allows considerable flexibility, as the overall themes are very interrelated.  Priortity areas identifed on the future cooperation themes include:

  • Digital innovation and opportunities
  • Open innovation
  • Social enterprises
Low-carbon and sustainable development
  • Renewable (innovation, access and use)
  • Zero carbon (circular economy, housing, products)
  • Blue growth/marine economy
  • Environmental management/protection
Communications and green transport
  • Smart mobility
  • Planning
Public service provision and integration
  • Health
  • Wellbeing (youth and elderly)
  • Education and skills
  • Community sustainability cohesion and integration
Ingrid Green - Scotland Europa