Council / Rural shops could benefit from new funding through council

St Ringan's council chamber. Photo: SIC

MORE than £180,000 in funding could go towards supporting rural shops in Shetland over the next few years.

The money is coming from the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund, which is being given to local authorities to replace EU funds after Brexit.

Shetland Islands Council (SIC) has been allocated £1.879 million between now and 2025, and it is due to submit an investment plan to set out how it intends to use the money.

Part of the allocation is in line to be used to fund the creation of a grant scheme to support the development and sustainability of rural shops.

SIC economic development manager Tommy Coutts said this would effectively revive the old rural shops improvement scheme the council used to run.

Whilst rural shops provide a vital service – especially this week with the snow disruption – they often find it difficult to maintain sustainability and improve services, a council meeting was told this week.


“A small grant assistance scheme will provide capital funding to third parties which seek to improve the sustainability of these services and retain the vital functions they perform in supporting communities,” a report said.

“Grant awards will be for capital projects supporting retail improvements only, with intervention rates to be determined.”

More details of the potential scheme is expected to follow in 2023.

Existing services supported under European Structural and Investment Funds would also be prioritised under the new scheme.

In particular the in-house council employability service would be funded, while there would also be a focus on training in the green energy industry via Shetland UHI.

Further funding could be used to assist local communities in the development of place plans.

Councils are also required to deliver a ‘Multiply’ scheme to boost adult numeracy, with funding primarily being used to employ specialist tutors.

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The report to Wednesday’s full council meeting said it is the intention of the UK Government to increase the funding over the years as European schemes reduce.

Coutts admitted it was difficult to give a straight answer as to whether the funding allocation was less than councils received through EU cash – but he suggested talk within local authorities was that it was.

Depute leader Gary Robinson said it was “significantly less than we used to get – just another Brexit benefit I’m sure”.

Leader Emma Macdonald said whilst it was not the same level of funding as before, “obviously any money is welcome”.

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