Statements re EU Referendum

Following the announcement of the results of the EU referendum, and the important role EU funding plays in supporting Dumfries and Galloway's economic development activities and, consequently, our regional food and drink sector, please find below statements from Dumfries and Galloway Council and from Scotland Food and Drink.

All support services for food and drink businesses in Dumfries and Galloway continue. 

The EU programmes that currently provide the financial backing for key sector support are in place until 31 December 2018 and it is business as usual for both the Council and its officers.

If you have any questions about exporting or your future growth plans, please get in touch.  If your business has been impacted in any way by the referendum results, please contact either lorna@dgfoodanddrink.org or chris.churms@dumgal.gov.uk.   

Following the outcome of the European Referendum, Council Leader, Ronnie Nicholson, made the following statement:
The outcome of the EU referendum is clearly a significant one for people living across the UK and our region is no different.  Building our economy and creating living wage jobs that are sustainable are our top priorities as a council and the result of the referendum brings huge uncertainty for our residents, businesses and employees. 

How the impact of the referendum may be mitigated in the future by the Council, Scottish or UK Governments is still uncertain and this presents a further significant risk to our financial planning in such times of austerity. In particular the impact on economic growth could have a major negative effect on the forthcoming spending review and subsequent financial settlement from the Scottish Government. 

There are also a number of main programmes and activities that are currently funded through the EU so may be impacted on by the result of the referendum. Some specific Council programmes funded from the 2014-2020 EU Funding Programmes include:

The European Social Fund for employability which is worth £7m
European Regional Development Funding worth £1.4m
And the LEADER programme worth £6.1M

These grants alone support the jobs of some 50 staff directly employed on delivering these schemes and many more partners rely on this and other funding to support employment. 

Not being able to provide assurance on their future to these key groups is a major concern. In the past European structural funds have played a major role in development within our Region such as the A75 improvements and Forestry routes programme.  European grants also underpin current critical national infrastructure projects such as Broadband roll out.

In addition, the Council has agreed to be a part of the proposed Business Loans Scotland which was to include European Regional Development Fund.

For the wider partnership there are also national programmes delivered by Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Visitscotland and  the Scottish Funding Council  which will be affected. Further, there are implications for our Universities in relation to EU funded research grants. 

For our fragile rural economy there are significant funds disbursed by the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) including farm payments and land management programmes. These affect some 2000 businesses and represent over £85m for Common Agriculture Payments alone in 2015.  The Third Sector may also be affected in relation to access to social enterprise development. 

Given the potential impact on our region, the Chief Executive has already commissioned a piece of work to consider in more detail the risks to our local economy, any legal and social implications and the risk to previously agreed and future funding streams.  

This will be informed by the emerging national picture and will be reported to members at the earliest opportunity. Clearly negotiations to implement the decision to leave the EU have obviously not yet begun and we are at the very early stages of that process, therefore these funding streams will continue for the time being and may indeed continue for some years. However, I give a commitment that I will lobby both the UK and Scottish Governments to ensure they take whatever action is required to protect these projects and funding for the lifetime of those projects.

I also know that the Trade Unions are concerned at the possible impact the referendum result may have on employment rights. As a lifelong Trade Unionist, I can also give this commitment to our unions that for as long as I’m Leader, this council will do all we can to protect worker’s rights and lobby Government to ensure they do too.
 
Ronnie Nicholson
Council Leader
Dumfries and Galloway Council
 

Scotland Food and Drink statement:

The impact of the referendum result will be felt strongly by the food and drink industry. Yet, the precise impact is unknown, and may be unknown for some time. So it is a time for calm heads and industry leadership.

Whilst there are inevitable uncertainties, we must reflect on what we do know.  We know we have an ever strengthening foundation to continue the remarkable progress of the food and drink industry over recent years. Scotland’s £14 billion, growing food and drink sector is central to the Scottish economy. It has been our fastest growing export and one of the best performing domestic sectors. There is also an expanding world of consumers that want high quality products with a strong provenance story.  None of that has changed.

However, we also recognise that the successful spread of markets the Scotch whisky industry has developed is not yet in place for our other food and drink products, 80% of which are sold in the EU. Crucially though, work has been underway for two years already on this with new trade specialists based in 10 key cities around the world opening up opportunities for our products.

The one thing that drives business and innovation is change. And we know that is now coming. This means that the world-leading culture of collaboration that exists between food and drink organisations and government, through Scotland Food & Drink, has never been more important and must now deepen.  It puts us in a strong position to negotiate the journey ahead. 

The ongoing work to support Scottish farmers, fisherman and food and drink manufacturers in this new political framework is more critical than ever for the whole Scottish economy. This new, emerging reality will undoubtedly bring both opportunity and challenge. The weeks and months ahead will determine what the balance looks like between those two. 

However, our efforts to develop a strong domestic and global platform for Scottish produce is no different today than it was 48 hours ago. That unifying mission will now be central to discussions on the future political framework.

James Withers
CEO, Scotland Food & Drink