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EU aid optimism

SIC leader Gary Robinson (right) with LibDem Euro MP George Lyon (left) and EU commissioner for regional policy Johannes Hahn - Photo: SIC

SHETLAND Islands Council leader Gary Robinson said he was confident the European Union would think again about excluding Shetland from the same aid bracket as the rest of the highlands and islands.

The level of oil industry in the isles had led to Shetland being ranked alongside major cities like London, Paris and Frankfurt when it came to receiving European structural funds.

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Robinson and Scottish Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon emerged confident from a meeting with the EU’s regional policy commissioner Johannes Hahn on Monday.

Lyon’s main aim was to gain backing to limit cuts to Scotland’s funding to just five per cent, as recommended by the UK government.

However he also raised the Shetland question and was pleased with the response that Shetland should automatically qualify as a transitional region due to its remoteness.

“Commissioner Hahn found it a rather perverse view that one of the most remote islands we have in Europe would be excluded from regional funding,” Lyon said.

Robinson described the meeting as “positive and productive”, saying Hahn had conceded Shetland’s geographical distance from the centre and the markets should be taken into consideration.

“Commissioner Hahn was very sympathetic to our plight and he promised to look at ways to find a solution to this problem,” he said.

“It is clear that we need to work with the UK government and the commission in the next few months to ensure that Shetland does not lose out in future EU funding.”  

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