Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has welcomed the announcement today (Wednesday July 22) by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson of an Islands Growth Deal for the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland.

In an embargoed media release timed for 10.30pm tonight, the Council states:

The Deal comprises an investment of £50m from the UK Government and £50m from the Scottish Government will now allow a suite of projects, developed by the Comhairle and its public and private sector partners, to move towards delivery.

The Islands Deal proposals are presently based around a suite of five projects:

  •  Outer Hebrides Energy Hub
  •  Outer Hebrides Destination Development
  •  Spaceport 1
  •  Primary Industries Development
  •  Outer Hebrides Campus Development 

A number of innovation projects linking the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland are also being developed.  These three joint-islands projects are under the following themes:

  •  Skills, Talent Attraction and Entrepreneurial Support
  •  Island Centre for Net Zero Carbon
  •  Creative Islands and Well-being

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.

“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”, the release concludes.

In a news release timed at 08.39 today, Thursday July 23, na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan MSP has welcomed to announcement of the Growth Deal for the Islands.

The release states: "The £50m sum allocated by the UK Government will be match-funded by the Scottish Government. The Islands Deal is the latest in a series of growth deals awarded to cities and regions across Scotland and will benefit Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Orkney and Shetland.

Growth Deals are agreements between the Scottish Government, the UK Government and local government designed to bring about long-term strategic approaches to improving regional economies.

The cross-sectoral investment will go towards earmarked projects including agriculture, destination development, renewable energy and Spaceport 1, likely incorporating broader themes such as connectivity, housing and healthy ageing. Joint-island projects in the creative industries and wellbeing sectors will also benefit.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented: “The Islands Deal is an exceptional and long-awaited chance to invest in transformational projects in Scotland’s islands. The Scottish Government has always indicated it would match fund the sum made available by the UK Government. Now that the UK has identified a figure, the Scottish Government has been able to do the same. With each side contributing £50m, we now have a chance to start investing this in the kind of projects that the Islands need more than ever at this difficult time as we come out of lockdown. The money will go to projects in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.

“The Comhairle has put together a list of potential projects with which it made its funding bid, and the Scottish Government will now work closely with the Comhairle and the community to make sure that as many of these as possible now become a reality.

“Now that the UK Government have given the go ahead from their side of the bargain, the Scottish Government has matched them £ for £, and is determined to see the infrastructure and economy of the islands given a boost, at a time when that is needed.”

In a news release timed at 10:03 on 23 July, HIE welcomes the announcement of Islands Growth Deal funding

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) welcomes today’s announcement of an Islands Growth Deal comprising an investment of £50m from the UK Government and £50m from the Scottish Government.

Charlotte Wright, HIE Chief Executive, said: “We very much welcome today’s announcement of £100m investment in the Northern and Western Isles over the next ten years under the Islands Growth Deal.

“This will support projects that have the potential to benefit communities across the dispersed population and geography of the islands. It will also promote innovation and employment and help deliver sustainable and inclusive economic recovery in some of our most rural areas.

“We look forward to working closely with our partners in the Islands Growth Deal to deliver these important benefits over the next ten years.”

In a news release timed at 10:29 on 23 July, Shadow Finance Secretary Donald Cameron said:

“I am delighted that the Prime Minister is visiting Orkney to underline his commitment to the Islands Deal.

“The deal has the potential to be a game-changer for the Western Isles, where we badly need investment to sustain the local economy and reverse the worrying trend towards depopulation.

“The unprecedented scale of the deal is an emphatic demonstration of how beneficial it can be when the Scottish Government works with the UK Government to deliver on behalf of our communities. It builds on the extraordinary support being provided by the UK Treasury in protecting nearly one million jobs in Scotland through furloughing and the self-employment support scheme.

“I very much hope that Nicola Sturgeon will reflect on the benefits of working together. Her tweeted comments on the Prime Minister’s visit to Scotland were extremely disappointing – a grudging welcome coupled with a demand for independence – with no reference made to the Islands Deal or the work being done to protect jobs in Scotland.

“Instead of complaining, she would be better employed doing something about the shocking situation of the new CalMac ferries – still unfinished and years late -  which are her Government’s responsibility.”

For immediate release: July 23 2020

 In a new release timed at 16.01 on Thursday June 23, Isles MP Angus MacNeil said the deal must be seen in context

Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil welcomes the announcement from the UK Government of the Islands Growth Deal but says caution is needed as this does not dispel all the financial difficulties still facing the island economy.

An Islands Growth Deal of £50m has been announced by the UK Government after several years of negotiation and persistence by island politicians.

The £50m sum allocated by the UK Government will be match-funded by the Scottish Government. The Islands Deal is the latest in a series of growth deals awarded to cities and regions across Scotland and will benefit Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Orkney and Shetland.

Mr MacNeil says the deal is positive but is not likely to fill the gap left as an impact of leaving the EU.

He said: “While we welcome the money we should also be aware that for context, it is about £2.2m coming in to each island group on average per year for each of the 15 years.

“It is a small part of each council budget in the single digit percentages around the 2 to 3 per cent  but still it should provide a focus to do particular jobs which have been earmarked in our communities.

“We would hope that the money is transformative and if more is required that the Government who control the purse strings will not be found wanting when more resources are needed.”