A £209 million EU funding programme to strengthen cross-border business links — in sectors like conservation — between western Scotland, Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland has been launched.
The EU scheme will fund projects working across the three regions in business sectors including environmental protection, conservation, healthcare, sustainable transport and research and innovation.
“Funding such as this also demonstrates quite clearly how communities in Scotland gain from being an active part of the European Union,” said cabinet secretary for infrastructure and investment Keith Brown.
“Western Scotland was incorporated into the previous round of this programme in 2007 and we have already seen good results.
“For example, the IBIS project, which was funded under the programme, delivered a world-class research and training facility at Loch Lomond.”
Brown joined Northern Ireland finance minister Mervyn Storey and Ireland finance minister Brendan Howlin in Belfast to mark the launch of the INTERREG VA initiative.
The EU funds will support activity from now until 2020 and the programme is open to applications.
“I welcome this investment and commitment to strengthening our cross-border partnerships and look forward to seeing people and communities in western Scotland sharing in the benefits being delivered to all three regions,” added Brown.
“This huge investment will help projects delivering healthcare, transport, environmental benefits and wider innovation, strengthening our already good cross-border links with Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland.”
Targets for the INTERREG VA programme include:
- improving the conservation status of 4,500 hectares of natural habitats
- supporting more than 1,400 small and medium size businesses engaged in cross-border research and innovation
- providing access for 50,000 people to health and social care services
- increasing daily cross-border journeys on public transport from 8% to 25% by 2023
Previous INTERREG IVA funded projects included the IBIS ‘Integrated Aquatic Resource Management between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland’ Project valued at £6 million which included studies on species including Atlantic salmon, European eel, sea trout, mussels and oysters.
This led to the development of a world-class research and training facility at Loch Lomond.
Another funded project was the Halting Environmental Loss Project (HELP) scheme valued at £1.39 million, which was designed to improve the natural habitats of a range of priority bird species which have undergone a severe decline — including the chough, corncrake and breeding wader species.
Habitat management work for these species carried out under the project also benefited other wildlife species including the great yellow bumblebee, the marsh fritillary butterfly and the Irish damselfly (dragonfly).