SCOTTISH Borders Council’s Brexit response team has raised alarm bells about the impending loss of rural development funding for the region.

The team is concerned about the impending loss of the EU’s leader programme, which supports rural development projects, and which is contributing £4m to the region between 2014 and 2020.

In a report set to go before Scottish Borders Council on Thursday, November 29, the council’s corporate policy adviser Michael Cook says: “A fluid and uncertain negotiating context have made detailed assessment and scenario planning highly challenging.

“In response, the work of the Brexit response team has developed around anticipated immediate and short-term impacts, principally in respect of how they affect the capacity of the council to carry out its responsibilities, but extending our planning to include subjects where the council has a duty of care.”

In July 2018 the UK Government extended its proposed EU funding guarantee to cover all projects, including European Regional Development (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF) projects that would have been funded by the EU under the 2014-2020 programme period.

The extension allows the Scottish Government to continue to sign new projects after EU exit until programme closure.

However, in spite of the guarantee given by Westminster in relation to the lifetime funding of existing programmes, for all practical purposes, leader funding is now at an end as all contracts need to be in place by March 28, 2019, the day before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU.

Mr Cook, a former depute leader of Scottish Borders Council, continues in his report: “Leader provides significant funding for the development of rural community and business projects in Scottish Borders.

“It links specifically to the local development strategy for the area to support projects which develop sustainability of rural businesses, create employability, provide skills development and develop community capacity.

“The loss of leader will leave a considerable funding gap for rural businesses, social enterprises and community groups and will almost certainly impact on their future development as well as opportunities to attract more income into Scottish Borders.

“Leader is also one of very few funds in the area which is open to local businesses as well as non-profit making organisations.”

The loss of leader funding will also lead to the loss of three full time jobs at Scottish Borders Council, alongside two part-time positions.