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Council / Islands deal to be signed off

The scheme will see the UK and Scottish Governments each commit £50 million to projects benefitting Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles

AN AGREEMENT to invest £100 million in the future economic prosperity of Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides is being signed today (Friday) by UK and Scottish Government ministers and the council leaders of the three island groups. 

Up to 1,300 jobs and £393 million of investment is anticipated to result from the signing of the islands growth deal between UK Government, Scottish Government, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Shetland Islands Council, and Orkney Islands Council.

Over a ten-year period, the islands growth deal – which is being signed off in Orkney – will invest in 16 projects and programmes that capitalise on the islands’ unique assets.

Local projects include redevelopment of the former Anderson High School, investment in the UHI Shetland campus and an ultra-deep water port at the Dales Voe decommissioning site.

The signing today is the result of a 10-year campaign by island politicians who came together under the banner of Our Islands Our Future.

The islands deal was signed by: (left to right): Councillor Paul Steele, leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar; Malcolm Offord, UK Government minister for Scotland; Ivan McKee MSP, Scottish Government business minister; Councillor, Emma Macdonald, leader of Shetland Islands Council; and councillor James Stockan, leader of Orkney Islands Council. Photo: orkney Islands Council

Former council leader Gary Robinson, who after five years absence from the council chamber was re-elected in May last year and is now depute leader of the SIC, has always expressed his disappointment with the amount of funding pledged by both governments.

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He and his colleagues in Orkney and the Western Isles had set out to achieve three times as much in funding. In 2020 he told Shetland News that the funding pledge was “helpful but not transformational”. 

All of the projects in the deal are built around three strategic themes of low carbon, supporting growth and future industries, and thriving sustainable communities, subject to approval of full business cases.

Shetland Islands Council leader Emma Macdonald said: “The deal contains projects which are island-specific and focus on local opportunities and priorities, as well as those which, working in partnership, will help us unlock more economic success for all our islands.

“These vital projects supporting our islands’ sustainability could not have progressed without the UK Government and Scottish Government’s support and investment.

“Our partnership has developed as we have developed the deal, and I look forward to seeing how it develops over the coming decade.”

Jointly funded by up to £100 million – £50 million from each of the Scottish and UK governments – the islands deal  is expected to attract further investment of up to £293 million in match funding. 

The deal has been developed by the three island councils, together with public, academic, business, community and third sector partners.

The first year of the ten-year programme is anticipated to see investment across the islands, including in UHI’s campuses in Shetland and the Outer Hebrides, and the pan-island Islands Centre for Net Zero, which will be based at the Orkney Research and Innovation Campus in Stromness. 

Following the signing within Orkney Islands Council’s chamber, UK government minister for Scotland Malcolm Offord said: “This will not just boost local economies and create jobs, but also empower communities to get the most out of the many assets and attributes that make the islands such unique and special places to live.

“This deal is packed with a broad range of high-impact projects, whether it’s leading the transition to net zero or developing ‘must-visit’ destinations such as the St Kilda trail.

“The UK Government’s £50m support for the Islands deal, in addition to other levelling up investments, shows our continued commitment to the Scottish Islands.”

Scottish Government business minister Ivan McKee added: “This growth deal will be a game-changing initiative for our islands – enabling sustainable economic growth and delivering new and internationally significant port infrastructure that will play an important role in achieving net zero targets. 

“This £50 million Scottish Government investment will support the transition to renewable energy sources – including equipping the workforce with new skills – and trial emissions reduction initiatives on islands

“It will drive innovation in key space, food and drink and creative industries sectors; help develop significant tourism and cultural attractions and expand education provision.”

The multi-million-pound investment will be shared across the following projects:

Leading the way to a low carbon future

·       Islands Centre for Net Zero

·       Scapa Flow Future Fuels Hub 

·       Outer Hebrides Energy Hub

·       Shetland Clean Energy Project 

·       Dales Voe Ultra-Deep Water Quay

Supporting Growth and Future Industries

·       Creative Islands Wellbeing

·       Outer Hebrides Destination Development

·       Orkney World Heritage Gateway

·       Orkney Vertical Farm

·       Shell-volution

·       Outer Hebrides Food and Drink Programme

·       Spaceport 1 

Thriving Sustainable Communities

·       TalEntEd Islands

·       Orkney Research and Innovation Campus

·       Shetland Campus Redevelopment

·       Outer Hebrides Campus Redevelopment

·       Knab Redevelopment

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