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Council / SIC plans new grant scheme funded from Crown Estate income

Laxfirth salmon farm, which shot more seals than any other salmon farm in 2013 and 2014, but now hopes to stop altogether thanks to new Econets. Photo ShetnewsThe Crown Estate Scotland owns and manages most of the seabed out to 12 nautical miles. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND Islands Council (SIC) is expected to invite local projects to bid for grant funding from a pot of money made up of two years of Crown Estate revenues worth more than £2.3 million.

The Scottish Government has just announced that the SIC is in line to receive a £1.36 million share from £9.7 million of Crown Estate revenues generated in 2018/19.

Chairman of the council’s development committee Alastair Cooper said the SIC had still not spent last year’s allocation of just over £1 million.

“Officers are just finalising a grant scheme worth £2.368 million,” he said, adding that the intention is to present the scheme to councillors for approval later this summer.

Cooper said the plan was to have the scheme ready for bids from “dedicated projects” by autumn. These have to be for the benefit of coastal communities but projects from the education and social sectors are not eligible.

For decades the revenues the Crown Estate generated from owning and managing the seabed out to 12 nautical miles – as well as other assets such as forests and commercial property – were regarded as unjustified by many in the islands including local politicians, salmon farmers and harbour authorities.

Since last year, and following years of negotiations, a greater proportion of Scottish Crown Estate revenues is being redistributed to local authority areas with a coastline – with Shetland, Orkney, Highlands and the Western Isles the main beneficiaries.

Scottish land reform secretary Roseanne Cunningham said the money could be used by local authorities to directly support businesses, including third sector organisations, affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on communities across the country and particularly those people and businesses living and working in our coastal areas, which are often reliant on tourism,” she said.

“That is why we have widened the remit of these funds to include direct support, where necessary, to coastal businesses and third sector organisations.

“We have also worked to allocate this year’s funding as swiftly as possible to enable local authorities to help these organisations through the economic shock caused by the pandemic, and direct resource to where it is most needed in support of a wellbeing economy.”