From transport to broadband and utilities, connectivity is key in rural areas
Enterprising communities in rural Scotland are being offered grants of up to £50,000 from the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) to start up community business ventures that will breathe new life into their areas.
The news came as ten Scottish communities shared the first grants from BIG’s Village SOS funding competition. Each of the successful Scottish groups will receive grants of between £10,000 and £50,000 to help rural communities with less than 3,000 people develop plans for enterprising projects that will answer a local need or improve services for local people.
North Howe Transition Toun in Fife has been offered an award of £29,000 for its plans to develop its community bakery business, the Doorstep Bakery, in the village of Collessie. The group will purchase new equipment and will take part in farmers’ markets and events to promote their business. This enterprise will employ a consultant bakery manager and provide training opportunities for local people.
Neil Stoddart, from North Howe Transition Toun, said: “This funding will assist the community bakery in expanding both its operation and its reach. It is vital to establishing the business as a communityowned asset and helping to develop the local economy. It will provide employment for at least one person and increase the capacity of the bakery to offer volunteer opportunities to many more local people. We’ll also be able to further develop the social aspects of our bakery with a mobile pizza oven that we will use for community events throughout the year.” In East Lothian, Ormiston Growers has been offered an award of £29,011 to set up and run a community shop which will provide a range of locally sourced produce. Based in premises in Ormiston main street, this new enterprise will become self-sustaining through retail sales and will provide added employment and volunteering prospects for local people.
Yvonne Dalziel, a Director for Omiston Growers, said: “This new centre will provide local people in Ormiston with a place where they can come and shop and have a cup of tea in the café. We will be selling a range of local produce including cheeses, herring and bread from the local bakery as well as organic staples such as cereals and flour. We’ll also be creating jobs in the form of a shop manager and volunteer development worker and later on a café manager.” In Aberdeenshire, Caleycom Limited will lead a community project to extend reliable next-generation broadband to more people in, and surrounding, the rural village of Kinmuck.
Welcoming the £18,000 award, spokesperson, Simon James, said: “Caleycom Limited, on behalf of the Kinmuck Community Broadband Project, is delighted and grateful to have been awarded funding from the Big Lottery Fund. The funding will mean that phase two of the rural broadband project will be able to extend fast broadband to many households in a large part of the area surrounding Kinmuck. The project is a major step forward for the rural area around Kinmuck and will help support a more sustainable future for the rural community.” Creetown Initiative Ltd in Dumfries and Galloway has been offered £28,898 to set up a community car club which will give local people the option of car sharing. It is hoped that this will help more people to travel further afield for employment opportunities.
Andrew Wards, Senior Projects Manager, Creetown Initiative Ltd, said: “This award means we can help young people in the area who need support with transport when they are trying to secure employment. People of all ages find the cost of transport in a rural area a heavy burden. As well as helping to reduce this burden, this funding will help us to reduce carbon emissions.” Announcing awards totalling £241,615, Big Lottery Fund Scotland Chair, Maureen McGinn, said: “[The] funding will support ten innovative projects in rural Scotland which have been developed in response to the unique challenges faced by each community. These exciting ventures are testament to the strength and creativity that exists in rural communities and I wish them all every success as they put their plans into practice. I’d also urge other enterprising groups in Scotland to explore this unique opportunity to get funding and support to start up a community-run enterprise, which will revive their local area and help stem the trend of rural decline.” Meanwhile, businesses will grow and jobs will be created under a new multi-million-pound investment in superfast broadband, the Scottish Secretary has said. A new fund of £32m is available to expand the broadband network as far as possible in the country, in line with UK Government targets. It adds to £68.8m allocated by the UK Government in August last year following a spending review.
Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said: “Access to superfast broadband means Scottish businesses can expand, develop new markets and compete globally. It also allows local communities to access public services more quickly and efficiently online.
“Providing Scotland with high-speed broadband is essential for businesses to grow and to create the new jobs we need. That is why the UK Government believes broadband is essential not only for everyday life but also for the future economic success of Scotland and the UK.’’ Telecoms regulator Ofcom says superfast broadband connection speeds must be at least 24Mbps. In August 2011 the UK Government said England would receive £294.8m, Scotland £68.8m, Northern Ireland £4.4m and Wales £56.9m of the funding.
The new £32m pot of money is additional funding, following analysis of the online infrastructure in Scotland, the Treasury said. According to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt: “[The Government is] determined to ensure the whole of the UK can share in the benefits and opportunities the internet offers.
The internet provides huge opportunities for growth by enabling businesses to access new markets and develop new products.
“This extra investment will help Scotland develop the infrastructure that businesses need to grow in the digital age.’’