Hopes Small Isles will benefit from £4m pot of cash

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Hopes have been voiced that a slice of a £4million pot of Scottish Government cash will come to local coffers to help improve infrastructure on the Small Isles.

The capital investment will be allocated to the six island local authorities to fund the improvement, creation or safeguarding of locally developed infrastructure projects.

The funding is part of the £30 million Islands Programme, established to support the implementation of the National Islands Plan – a landmark strategy to improve the quality of life for island communities with 13 objectives, and more than 100 specific measures to address population decline, tackle climate change and improve transport, housing, the delivery of public services and digital connectivity.

Speaking at the Convention of Highlands and Islands, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Islands Mairi Gougeon said the £4 million being spent across the six island local authorities will enable joined-up working to support critical projects.

‘This funding is complemented by ongoing planned investment which is designed to support those living on Scotland’s islands and will involve communities in the decisions on how and where investments are made,’ Ms Gougeon added.

‘The economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on our islands. The many challenges communities have faced have been varied and that is why I am committed to delivering the National Islands Plan in partnership with our island partners.

‘I know that by working together, we can maximise the impact of our investments and support good, solid projects that will help islanders to thrive.’

Councillor Denis Rixson, whose Caol and Mallaig ward includes the Small Isles – Rum, Muck, Eigg and Canna – said he was always hopeful of additional investment for the Small Isles and welcomed this latest round of funding.

The Isle of Eigg Trust, the community organisation which owns the island, also said it welcomed news of the funding.

‘Essentially the answer is yes, we do welcome it,’ the trust told the Lochaber Times this week.

Asked if some of the cash could go to the Small Isles, Highland Council told the Lochaber Times: ‘We have had committee approval for allocating the first part of the islands infrastructure fund to projects in the Small Isles.

‘We are now preparing for the next round and will present proposals to members for the next round.’

Scottish Futures Trust will support the Scottish Government in the delivery of the Islands Programme.

Neil Rutherford, Senior Associate Director, Scottish Futures Trust’s Investment and Place team, explained:  ‘We have been providing dedicated expertise and support to the Islands Programme and will be managing the application, assessment and delivery process of the new projects.

‘As a centre of infrastructure expertise, we are very much looking forward to working with the six island local authorities and island communities to deliver critical and transformational infrastructure that will support islanders with the aim of encouraging population growth, recovery from the pandemic and help to deliver the Scottish Government’s net-zero ambitions.’