Outer Hebrides LEADER Programme 2014-2020 Update

Members of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Sustainable Development Committee will tomorrow hear an update on the results of an in-house mid-term evaluation of the Outer Hebrides LEADER Programme 2014-2020.

LEADER (Liaison Entre Actions de Dèveloppment Èconomique Rurale or Links between Activities Developing Rural Communities) is a European Union funded Community Development Programme which is part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP). It focuses on delivering a bottom-up method of support for rural development. Support is primarily aimed at small-scale, community-driven pilot projects that are innovative in nature.

In 2015 the Scottish Government awarded £3,177,666 for a local LEADER and European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) 2014-2020 Programme to the Outer Hebrides LEADER Local Action Group (LAG). Since opening in March 2016 the Outer Hebrides LEADER Programme has awarded £2.1m to 39 projects, levering-in additional investment of £5.2m - one of the highest leverage ratios for any LEADER LAG area in Scotland and equating to almost £2.50 for each £1 of LEADER grant committed.

The programme received 257 Expressions of Interest and 103 applications with 43 approved to date – 15 projects in Uist and Barra and 28 in Lewis and Harris meaning a wide geographic distribution of LEADER funding across the Outer Hebrides.

The Outer Hebrides LEADER LAG completed a mid-term evaluation of the Programme in December 2018. It examined the extent to which projects reflected the aims and objectives of the LAG’s Local Development Strategy (LDS) and Business Plan achieved EU and Scottish Government LEADER priorities. The mid-term evaluation covered the period from the launch of the local Programme in November 2015 through to October 2018 and is appended to this Report.

The principal findings were that the Outer Hebrides LEADER LDS was successful in supporting a wide range of applicants’ projects. The eligibility of small business applicants for the first time had been beneficial with regard to local tourism business start-ups, particularly those linked to the ‘Hebridean Way’.

An independent evaluation will be commissioned in 2020 when projects are complete, to assess fully the impact of the Programme on the wider Outer Hebrides economy and local communities.