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Council / Coastal income fund could offer community grants of up to £100,000

Crown Estate Scotland owns and manages most of the seabed out to 12 nautical miles. Photo: Shetland News

GRANTS ranging from £10,000 to £100,000 could be on offer from Shetland Islands Council (SIC) for charities and community groups through a proposed new funding scheme.

The SIC has been allocated over £2.3 million in the last two financial years from revenue generated by Crown Estate Scotland assets out to 12 nautical miles, and members of the full council will be asked at a meeting on Monday to approve the details of a pilot scheme to disburse this money to the community.

Eligible applicants could include registered charities, community groups, voluntary organisations, social enterprises and local authority departments.

If approved, the scheme would run to September 2021 as a pilot before a review is held.

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 now redistributed to local authority areas with a coastline – with Shetland, Orkney, Highlands and the Western Isles the main beneficiaries.

A report due to be presented to councillors said the proposed fund is designed to “mobilise change and deliver positive outcomes for Shetland and its communities”.

It also highlighted that it could deliver against local priorities for recovery and renewal from Covid-19 over the coming months and years.

Grants outside the typical £10,000 to £100,000 range may be considered in “exceptional circumstances”.

Some priority areas the funding could go to include developing communities, creating and safeguarding economic growth and jobs, contributing to the net zero agenda and supporting community events like the Tall Ships and Island Games.

Funds from the scheme could go towards buildings, new equipment and participatory budgeting among other areas, but not core running costs, political or religious activities or items that benefit individuals.

The scheme could potentially fund up to 90 per cent of project costs, but applicants may have a better chance of success if they can demonstrate some level of match funding.

Applications would be assessed by a panel which would consist of officers from council departments who would make recommendations to the chief executive, or a nominee, for approval.

The panel would meet around four times a year.

Monday’s full council meeting, meanwhile, will be the first SIC meeting to be recorded and published online for the public to watch back.