Highlands & Islands

'Considerable consequences' for Highlands from Brexit

Ullapool in Wester Ross Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The effect of last week's referendum results on the Highlands has been discussed by councillors

Highland Council has said that the UK leaving the European Union will have "considerable consequences" for the region.

In last week's EU referendum, 56% of those who voted in the Highlands supported remaining in the union.

Highland, the largest local authority area in the UK, receives up to £100m per annum in investment from the EU.

Councillors have been told the overall UK result in favour of leaving puts that level investment at risk.

The largest element of the EU investment is Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) payments followed by funding the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund.

A report by council officers also said the region has about 10,000 people from EU nations outside of the UK, with many of these people working in sectors such as agriculture, food processing and hospitality.

The sectors have previously had recruitment problems, the report added.

'Promote confidence'

A more positive note in the report was that the falling value of the pound could make the Highlands more attractive to tourists, but officers also warned that the Brexit vote might give the impression that the UK was less welcoming of visitors from the EU.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The Highlands remains open for business and welcoming of all cultures and communities, councillors said

The officers' paper was discussed as part of an emergency item added to the agenda of a meeting of the full council in Inverness.

During the meeting, councillors agreed that the region remained open for business and valued and welcomed everyone of "all cultures, races and communities".

They also said they supported the "endeavours of the Scottish Parliament to maintain and protect" Scotland's position within the EU.

'Important message'

Council leader Margaret Davidson said: "The result of the referendum on Thursday will have considerable consequences for us all over the coming months and years.

"We will be working as a council to explore what this decision might mean for the Highlands and how we can best respond to that.

"We need to promote confidence and be as positive as we can be. The drop in Sterling will indeed mean it will be easier for Highland businesses to export and for foreign tourists to come and visit the Highlands."

She added: "Council business and services will continue as usual and we will endeavour to provide as much stability as we can during the uncertain times ahead."

Chief executive Steve Barron said it could be months before it was clear what effects Brexit would have on the Highlands.

He said: "Unfortunately answers are in short supply.

"What we did do in the paper today was to set out potential implications there might be for the economy of the Highlands, tourism and also an important message that members got behind expressing a continued welcome to those EU nationals who live and work and visit the Highlands."

Mr Barron said there would be no immediate effect on jobs at the council, but said there were posts at the authority directly linked to the UK's membership of the EU or the funding it provides.

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