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Community / Scottish Government to set up emergency ‘cost crisis’ fund for islanders

The prospect of extra help for islanders has been welcomed by Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart and council leader Emma Macdonald

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A FUND worth £1.4 million is to be established to support island households who are struggling with higher energy costs.

The Island Cost Crisis Emergency Fund was announced by the government on Wednesday as part of its emergency budget review for 2022/23.

The government said this review includes additional savings of £615 million to enable enhanced public sector pay offers to be made.

It comes on top of £560 million of savings announced in September as the government grapples with a challenging financial situation.

Despite this, £1.4 million has now been earmarked to “support island households who are already experiencing higher costs of living, with geography, high fuel costs, a challenging climate as we head into winter and a lack of consumer choice”.

Last month Shetland Islands Council set up a £500,000 fund, using money from Crown Estate Scotland revenues, for supporting people during the cost of living crisis.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said: “I will be looking closely at the Scottish Government’s new announcement of an Island Cost Crisis Emergency Fund as more details are provided

“I welcome any funding that will help the people worst hit by the cost of living crisis.

“This winter is expected to be very challenging across the country. Scottish Liberal Democrats have long called for help to support households, such as insulating homes and swifter action on energy bills.

“Shetland has some of the highest rates of fuel poverty in the UK and many face uncapped heating oil prices. While there has been financial support for households more needs to be done to help those on low budgets.

“The Scottish Government needs to have a holistic approach to investment and funding for islands. Emergency support is welcome but long standing challenges still need to be addressed.”

Shetland Islands Council leader Emma Macdonald said it is “obviously positive” that the government has recognised the additional impacts on island communities.

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“These are points we have made in all our political engagements,” she said.

“I haven’t yet seen the details on what this means in reality, so we will need to wait for that but I welcome any additional funding that can be utilised for the benefit of those who need it most.”

Meanwhile the Scottish Government’s emergency budget review sees £400 million of spending “reprioritised” within health and social care to support a fair pay offer to NHS staff. The overall health budget remains unchanged.

Further savings of £33 million have been found across the government, and £180 million of capital spending reductions have been identified.

Deputy first minister John Swinney wrote in the review’s foreword that the “whole world is facing a period of substantial economic turmoil”.

He said the UK Government has made the situation in the country “significantly worse”.

Swinney said to meet the cost of inflation and pay awards there needs to be a “difficult process of reprioritisation”.

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