Council / Warm welcome for islands deal agreement

The growth deal will see £100 million invested by government in Scotland’s three island local authority areas

From 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: OIC

THE SIGNING of the £100 million islands growth deal has been welcomed by politicians and local industry.

Pen was put to paper on the deal, which will benefit Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles, at a ceremony in Kirkwall this morning (Friday).

The UK and Scottish Governments will commit £50 million each over ten years, but this is expected to attract further investment of up to £293 million in match funding.

There is also a hope that through the projects the deal will deliver up to 1,300 jobs by 2032 and support the isles to be among the first places in the UK to achieve net zero.

Funding includes £9.6 million for the Knab redevelopment project in Lerwick, £9 million to improve facilities at the Dales Voe base and £3 million to redevelop the UHI Shetland campus.

Despite this there has been concern that the eventual deal did not match the aspirations first set out in the Our Islands Our Future initiative many years ago.


Shetland Islands Council leader Emma Macdonald was on hand to sign the deal on behalf of the local authority.

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said it was a “welcome good news story at a time when we all need some good news”.

“Top credit has to go to the councillors and officials at the three councils. They built a credible business case, brought others on side and now we see the result. We can all be proud of their success today.”

He added that “this is not the end but the beginning of our efforts – but with the energy and know-how shown to get us to this point, we can have some measure of confidence in how we move forward”.

Local MSP Beatrice Wishart said:Shetland will see investment in our ultra-deep water ports at Dales Voe and benefit from funding for our UHI campus which will help isles innovation.

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“These are achievable ambitions through these investments that will have a beneficial impact on those directly involved but also provide wider benefits to local business and tourism.”

Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP and convener of the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on Islands Jamie Halcro Johnston said: “The deal, and the millions of pounds of matched funding it’s expected to unlock, will create jobs and opportunities in our islands, boosting local economies and driving growth.

“Coming only a week after the new green freeports in Scotland were announced, it’s another great example of the UK and Scottish governments working together to the benefit of our communities.

“It also comes only days after the UK Government committed £27m for the new Fair Isle ferry, underlining the UK Government’s commitment to Scotland’s island communities.”


Lerwick Port Authority owns the Dales Voe site, which is in line to host the UK’s first ultra deep water quay and boost its ability for decommissioning.

That project is expected to draw in an extra £24 million in match-funding.

Port chief executive Captain Calum Grains said: “The signing of the deal is a significant step in developing the economies of the three island groups, and in progressing our Ultra-Deep-Water Quay at Dales Voe, with a major contribution to funding.

“The deal recognises the importance of the quay in transforming Lerwick’s role as a national asset in decommissioning oil and gas production platforms and in developing offshore windfarms.”

The project is expected to create 100 jobs that will be sustained for the next 25 years.

Meanwhile UHI Shetland principal Jane Lewis UHI Shetland said the formal agreement and sign-off “signals an exciting time for all partners, and our communities who will benefit from the developments underway”.


“The links we have forged with renewables, green skills and the space sector highlight that Shetland has a dynamic future ahead,” she said.

“For UHI Shetland we are excited about the investment in the tertiary sector, particularly our campus redevelopment plans, which highlight Shetland as a vibrant destination of choice to study and live.”

Highlands and Islands Enterprise chief executive Stuart Black said: “This will provide a boost to projects that have the potential to benefit communities across the dispersed population and geography of the islands.

“It will also provide innovation and employment and help deliver sustainable and inclusive economic recovery in some of our most fragile areas.”

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