A study to investigate potential ‘gaps’ in support for Outer Hebrides community organisations and business, in order to provide evidence for future funding opportunities, has just been completed.
The Outer Hebrides LEADER Local Action Group (LAG) commissioned ‘Siar Management’ in January 2020 to investigate potential funding gaps in community and business support in the Outer Hebrides. The objective being not to design a new funding programme, but rather to provide evidence to support opportunities and determine where future financial support could and should be targeted.
Unsurprisingly the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown and subsequent restrictions from March 2020 not only impacted upon the method of gathering data, but also changed the future needs and wants of local businesses and community groups. Due to the timing of the research this report gives an insight to the changing needs of a range of sectors - in terms of what they strove for before and during the crisis and their aims in an ongoing recovery from the impact of the pandemic. It also raises awareness of potential future trends following economic recovery and potential impact on all sectors and groups.
Recommendations derived from the study’s findings include: the need for future financial assistance to support the recovery of local communities and the economy; establishing specialist support for enterprises and local supply-chains; attracting new businesses; supporting homeworkers and young people; and reviewing the local tourism and creative industries sectors through a turbulent future as they battle a range of unprecedented challenges.
It can be seen from the recommendations that restrictions imposed by the pandemic impacted future priorities and that there is a need to support local community groups, businesses and supply-chains to ensure local needs are met and that the islands become more resilient and fundamentally self-sufficient in the foreseeable future - through availability of high-quality local skills, goods and services.
The Outer Hebrides LEADER 2014-2020 Programme was awarded £3.18m of European LEADER funding to support community-led local development (CLLD). Though now closed, the current LEADER Programme supported nearly 50 projects across the islands. These include small rural businesses, community enterprises and voluntary sector organisations. Consecutive EU LEADER Programmes have, for 30 years, been active in supporting opportunities in local communities across the Outer Hebrides with an investment of over £11.6m – levering-in an additional £22.8m of other funding.
Although, due to Brexit, there will be no new EU-funded LEADER Programme - the Scottish Government is keen to continue CLLD-type support in its future national strategies.
The Outer Hebrides LEADER LAG is financed in-part-by Scottish Government and the European Community LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.