Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Orkney and Shetland Islands Councils have taken a significant step forward in joint working on the Islands Growth Deal, which aims to draw down £100m in UK and Scottish Government funding over the next decade, and to lever in over £200m in match funding to the islands.
The Islands Growth Deal Joint Committee, which will oversee the Growth Deal, and which consists of two elected representatives from each of the island Councils, met for the first time last week. At that meeting the Joint Committee approved the submission of Outline Business Cases for three Islands Growth Deal Projects to UK and Scottish Governments, an important next step in working towards achievement of Full Deal sign off.
Councillor Roddie Mackay, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Chair of the Joint Committee, said: "We have worked extremely well with Orkney and Shetland over the past number of years as shown by the success of the Our Islands, Our Future campaign and the securing of the Islands Growth Deal funding allocation back in March 2021. Our focus now is on working to secure a Full Deal and enable investment into our island communities.
I was delighted to see Outline Business Cases coming forward that will have potential impact across all of our island groups, including proposed plans to enhance provision at Lews Castle College UHI facilities, which will support our aspirations to retain and attract young people to the islands.”
Councillor James Stockan, Leader of Orkney Islands Council, said: “This is another exciting step forward for our island communities. The Islands Centre for Net Zero will empower islands to reduce carbon emissions in the most imaginative and effective ways, creating many ‘green’ jobs and attracting longer term investment.”
Councillor Steven Coutts, Leader - Shetland Islands Council, said: “The Shetland Campus is an ambitious project to enhance the learning facilities of Shetland College UHI. This will support the delivery of a modern curriculum that meets the expectations of a 21st century student body, as well as the needs of local employers, businesses, and the community. It supports the Council’s ‘Our Ambition‘ actions towards Shetland’s future sustainability and is a significant step forward following the recent completion of the college merger.”
The Outline Business Cases which have been put forward to Government are for two University of the Highlands and Islands-led projects: Outer Hebrides Campus Redevelopment and Shetland Campus Redevelopment, and the Islands Centre for Net Zero, a cross-island project being led by Orkney-based EMEC (the European Marine Energy Centre) working alongside Heriot Watt University and a range of local partners.
The Islands Growth Deal was developed by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Orkney Islands Council and Shetland Islands Council together with their partners in the public, academic, business and community sectors. It aims to harness the islands’ unique assets to create world class, innovative and globally focussed industries that will help address the islands’ severe demographic challenges and strengthen the distinct and important contribution the islands make to the economic vitality and international reputation of Scotland and the United Kingdom.
The Islands Growth Deal consists of 18 proposals which will capitalise on the Islands unique assets and which will deliver an investment of £50 million each from the Scottish and UK Governments, and an anticipated £235 million from project partners, subject to final approval of robust Business Cases. The 10-year programme of investment has the ambitious target of creating up to 1,300 jobs.
The three projects referred to are being funded as follows:
- The Islands Centre for Net Zero project will be supported with joint investment of up to £16.5 million from the UK Government and Scottish Government (UKG £16 million/SG £0.5 million).
- The Shetland Campus Redevelopment project will be supported with investment of up to £2 million from the Scottish Government.
- The Outer Hebrides Campus Redevelopment project will be supported with investment of up to £1.5 million from the Scottish Government.