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Council / ‘Imperative’ that islands plan investment is guided by local priorities, SIC leader says

Shetland Islands Council leader Steven Coutts. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND Islands Council leader Steven Coutts says it is “imperative” that funding due to be invested by the Scottish Government in the islands is “guided by and in line with local priorities”.

The Scottish Government stated in its recent draft infrastructure investment plan for the next five years that £30 million will be spent on delivering its national islands plan.

It says it will support a “range of areas, including tourism, infrastructure, innovation, energy transition and skills – informed by our learning of how island communities have responded and adapted to Covid-19”.

“This will include specific ringfenced funding for capital projects on islands relating to net zero and green recovery objectives, creating high quality, skilled, green jobs in some of our most remote and vulnerable communities,” it added.

No further details are available on how exactly the £30 million will be used.

Coutts, however, said local needs have to be taken into account when decided how the money will be used.

“We will be engaging with government to understand the detail behind this announcement,” he said.

“We will also be making the case that it is imperative that the funding is guided by and in line with local priorities. This new additional funding announcement must be seen in the context of usual government activity.

“So we need to see delivery on superfast broadband, full and fair ferry funding through other established routes. These two examples are absolutely essential to deliver on the fairness principle of the National Islands Plan.

“Once these are in place we can make the most of this new funding opportunity. But we need that basic fair building blocks in place first.”

The £30 million investment is on top of the growth deal recently agreed between the UK and Scottish governments designed to stimulate the economies of Scotland’s islands.