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Following many months of major controversy a broad agreement has been reached, by all 28 member states plus a majority in the European Parliament, on the headline figures to be in the EU budget for future years from 2014. The leadership and diplomatic skills of the Irish Presidency succeeded in brokering the necessary compromises on broad budgetary guidelines, but already a difficult, and at times acrimonious, debate is raging on different priorities within the detailed EU budget proposals for the next financial year.
During detailed scrutiny of each annual budget, MEPs collectively have significant powers, along with the Council of Ministers, to influence EU spending priorities. I will be supporting EU budget lines which focus heavily on boosting economic development and job creation, as well as supporting the development of renewable energy and research. Once agreed at EU level, a considerable amount of the day to day control and spending of EU resources is handled by national or local government, or through voluntary organisations or partnerships. Around Scotland we have a host of good ideas and initiatives which have already demonstrated how to make good use of EU funding streams, and many which deserve consideration in future years.
One initiative which I enjoyed taking part in recently was run by "A Taste of Angus", which is part of a series of European Regional Development Fund programmes, part-funded under the Lowlands and Uplands Scotland Programme 2007-2013. As part of the Rural Tourism Business Support project - a partnership of organisations operating within the East of Scotland, it seeks to improve the region's tourism product through a focus on key sectors. Angus Council is the lead partner of the collaborative tourism marketing project, working with six partners in the public, private and community sectors to promote tourism in the rural East of Scotland area.
A Summer Berry Festival, staged in association with Angus Farmer's Market, celebrated the excellence of local strawberries and raspberries which are amongst the best in the world. The Festival, consisting of a series of events packed full of ideas to make the most of these summer treats, is one of over 60 creative marketing initiatives supported by the £1.48 million Rural Tourism Business Support Project.
The project has supported 276 enterprises to date and focuses on four main activities of food & drink, heritage, golf and outdoor activities and gives all of the organisations involved the opportunity to learn from each other and work together on collaborative activity. The berry festival was a great way of promoting this fantastic taste of Angus and its exactly this kind of inventive marketing activity that the Rural Tourism Business Support Project is supporting across the East of Scotland.
The project's collaborative approach means resources and experiences are being shared, with additional funds provided from the European Regional Development Fund – it's a good way of supporting rural tourism businesses in these tough economic times, and a good example of EU funding being well utilised in support of local economic interests.