The Uist Economic Taskforce held a public meeting on Thursday 20 September 2018 and a formal working meeting on Friday 21 September 2018.
The public meeting allowed representatives of the Taskforce to update on their activities over the past year and to get feedback in regard to the present economic situation in the Uists. An overview was therefore provided in regard to new housing investment; broadband connectivity; the prospects for a Uist Spaceport and the development of links with the Faroe Islands. A presentation and discussion session around a new strategy for the regeneration of Balivanich was also provided.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr. Roddie MacKay, Chairman of the Uist Economic Taskforce and Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said:
“This was an extremely useful meeting that will help set the priorities for UET for the next year. The discussion on the economy focused on the critical issues of ferry transport and capacity and the negative impacts that present underperformance is having on the local economy.
“The need for young people to be equipped with the education and skills for the future job’s market was discussed as was the need for the development of greater levels of civic pride across all our communities.
“In regard to the presentation on the regeneration of Balivanich, both the audience and I were enthused by what we saw. The Strategy covers a range of small, medium and large scale projects, all developed in consultation with the community. These strategies offer a real opportunity for the environmental enhancement of Balivanich and the Taskforce and I will now be looking for implementation of the strategy to begin forthwith. I look forward to seeing both some “quick wins” and some longer term strategic investment”.
The business meeting of the Taskforce on Friday focused on two key issues: the roll-out of superfast broadband in Uist; and an update on the “Uist in Motion” energy strategy. Cllr. Iain A. MacNeil, Chairman of the Uist Economic Taskforce Working Group said after the meeting:
“I was pleased to see the good progress being made across Uist with the broadband roll-out. Many cabinets have now been deployed and many premises have been “switched on” with residents able to take-up the new high speed services. I think the take-up figures across Uist and the wider Outer Hebrides are heartening and I look forward to additional progress being made over the coming months.
“I was particularly pleased to see that there is significant innovation being brought to bear that will assist the most geographically hard-to-reach communities. It is essential that the Scottish Government’s “Reality 100%” integrates seamlessly with the present programme that is being managed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. HIE are making excellent progress and it will be critical that R100 ensures continuation of that progress and that no gaps or black areas are allowed to develop in Uist.”