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A special approach is being taken this year to aid Island athletes take part in major competitions elsewhere. 

The Athlete Travel Award Scheme allows athletes from the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland to have the opportunity to benefit from the programme designed to support travel costs in the islands.

The aim of this scheme is to help "elite pathway" athletes of the Highlands & Islands to gain better access to competitive and developmental opportunities available on the mainland.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said yesterday (Thursday June 17) that "with an understanding that the past year has resulted in a level of uncertainty over the sporting calendar and with potential that this may continue for the remainder of 21/22, it has been agreed by all Partners that for this year only we create a bespoke ATAS selection process in order to provide a more flexible approach."

Candidates can apply for sums up to £1,500. The amount they receive if successful will be based on a number of criteria in the application process including their forecast Competition and Training schedule, understanding of the Sports Performance Pathway, and National Rankings. The scheme will be available for applications for the period 1stAugust 2021 – End March 2022.

Awards will be allocated through an application process, with athletes required to evidence how the grant will improve their performance, provide them access to quality training opportunities and improve their sports or club environment.

The national organisation, sportscotland has allocated each of the three islands authorities £10,000, with the Councils then required to top this up with £2000 of their own funding plus the equivalent of £3000 of management and administrative time.

Stewart Harris, Chief Executive, sportscotland, said: “At sportscotland we recognise the specific challenges faced by island athletes. That’s why we are delighted to continue support for the Island Athlete Travel Scheme, in partnership with the island councils.

"By working together we can deliver services locally through the sportscotland institute of sport in the Outer Hebrides while providing additional support to allow talented athletes to travel to competitions and progress in their chosen sport.”

”It’s fantastic to hear that the athletes who received awards last year have benefitted and we look forward to working with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to support more island athletes.”

Councillor Paul Steele, Chairman of the Education, Sport and Children’s Services Committee said: “The Athlete Travel Award Scheme has been a fantastic addition to the support the Comhairle is able to provide our elite athletes. The feedback from previous applicants has been very encouraging and I would anticipate a high level of applicants for this year’s grants, particularly as athletes return to competitive sport.”

“sportscotland has become a valued partner over the years in our efforts to encourage our young people to get involved in sport and activities, and we are delighted that they have agreed to continue their support of this scheme.”