£100m islands growth deal announced
Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles are to receive a £100m investment from governments as part of an Islands Regional Growth Deal.
Both the Scottish Government and the UK Government are to provide £50m each over the next 10 to 15 years .
The money will be spent on development in areas like tourism, infrastructure, energy transition and skills, the governments have said.
The growth deal will be the final such regional growth deal to be announced. Various regions of Scotland have had pledges for similar investment, most recently an announcement of £90m for Falkirk.
The news comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Scotland on a Union-promoting tour to celebrate his first year in office.
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson, said: “The Islands Growth Deal is the final regional growth deal to be announced and marks our commitment to invest across all of Scotland, which is something we have pushed for.
“This money will work to improve the quality of life for island communities, alongside the Scottish Government National Islands Plan we introduced to the Scottish Parliament at the end of 2019.
“This significant investment will support islanders’ ambitions to create world-class visitor destinations, lead the way to a low carbon future, support growth and future industries and help the communities thrive by attracting and retaining young talent, driving inclusive and sustainable economic growth and delivering long lasting benefits for people living across the three island authority areas.
“It is important that all deals take account of the unprecedented economic challenges created by coronavirus (COVID-19) and we are working with partners, to understand how best to move forward and respond to current circumstances.”
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has welcomed the deal and said it will focus on using the money to develop various projects including an Outer Hebrides Energy Hub and a Spaceport.
Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Councillor Roddie Mackay said: “The deal announcement today is the culmination of a lot of hard work between the Comhairle, our Islands Council partners and both governments in recent years and represents a good outcome for the Islands.
“In per capita terms the overall value of the deal compares very favourably to other deals in Scotland and this good result is due to the high quality of the deal submission made by the Comhairle and our partners.
“The announcement is also a vote of confidence by both governments in the economy and future of the Outer Hebrides. Our islands have unrivalled natural resources, we offer a world class welcome to visitors, we have some of the richest renewable energy resources in Europe, we have an innovative, adaptable workforce and an enterprising culture and heritage sector.
“All these areas were recognised by both governments as they assessed the final value of the Islands Growth Deal. These are areas we hope to capitalise on and further develop as Growth Deal funding comes on stream.
“I am, however, highly aware of the challenges faced by our economy. Our islands have major population and structural challenges that have been exacerbated by the on-going Covid-19 pandemic. To overcome some of these challenges and to effect the transformational change our Islands need will require sustained investment over the coming years. I am hopeful, however, that this excellent Islands Growth Deal outcome is the first step in that on-going investment in our island economies and communities”
Mackay added: “working closely with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and our other partners we will now seek to build detailed business cases and undertake further work with the Government to prioritise how we invest the deal funds.”