Highlands & Islands

Brexit 'should not affect' Inverness-Augsburg link

Augsburg Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Augsburg link with Inverness pre-dates the UK's membership of the European Union

Brexit should have no effect on Inverness' 60-year-old twinning link with a German city, Highland Council officers have said in a new report.

The council, University of the Highlands and Islands and Highlands and Islands Enterprise are keen to strengthen the link with Augsburg.

They believe businesses and research involved in medical technologies could benefit.

In their report, officers said the link was not dependent on EU membership.

In June, the UK as a whole voted to leave the European Union, but a majority (62%) in Scotland voted to remain.

The officers at Highland Council delayed their report on efforts to strengthen the twinning link, to advance life sciences work being done in both cities, until after the result of the referendum was known.

In the document, to be considered by councillors on 1 September, they said: "Town twinning with Augsburg was a result of the post-war settlement in Europe and pre-dates our membership of the EU by almost 20 years, so EU membership was not crucial to the development of links.

"However, from a financial point of view, EU membership or a relationship with the EU is important if we want to carry on accessing funding."

'Remain positive'

Highland Council has been able to access EU budgets such as the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Framework and also education initiative, Erasmus.

This access to funds and projects looks uncertain following the referendum, although the UK government said this month that EU funding for farmers, scientists and other projects will be replaced by the Treasury after Brexit.

The officers said Norway could be a model for how Highland Council, University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) might maintain Inverness's links with Augsburg and wider continental Europe.

The report said: "In the case of Norway, although they are not a member of the EU they participate in Horizon Programme opportunities by contributing financially to specific projects.

"UHI remain positive about developing their links with Augsburg, and will still want to collaborate internationally.

"The town twinning link will also remain once the UK has formally left the EU."

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