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A five-day visit to Skye, Lewis and Harris left UK government minister for Scotland Iain Stewart MP with a clear impression of island innovation.

The visit in late July was planned ahead of the inaugural Islands Forum, which is to be held in Orkney later this year.

The minister, who is MP for Milton Keynes, made his way from Skye to Harris, where he paid a visit to the Isle of Harris Distillery. There he heard about how the island-based enterprise has grown through training and employing young people from the local area, meaning they don’t have to leave the island for work.

In Lewis, the itinerary included a visit to the new premises of Wee Studio in Ness, where the minister heard more about Lewis’ music scene and how the studio is helping artists to record their work remotely. 

He then went to Port of Ness Harbour, which is receiving £95,243 in UK Government funding to assist plans for redevelopment.

Horshader Community Trust told Mr Stewart of how more than £70,000 from the Community Renewal Fund is helping local residents to gain new skills, support the development of two green projects, and work with business partners to strengthen the island’s renewable energy sector.

Mr Stewart said: “It was a pleasure to visit Skye, Lewis and Harris. From seeing how the Horshader Community Trust is making Lewis more sustainable, to hearing how the Harris Distillery is supporting jobs for young people, it’s clear these islands have talent, innovation and resourcefulness in droves.

“It’s also clear that the Islands Growth Deal and investment through the UK Government’s Levelling Up Funds are making a real difference in these places, for the benefit of people who live here.

“However, while our island communities have unique strengths, they also face unique challenges. Infrastructure, transport and depopulation are issues that islands often have to contend with and they must be addressed for our rural areas to truly thrive.

“The Islands Forum was set up to discuss these problems. It will give a platform for those who understand remote communities and their needs best, putting islands at the heart of our Levelling Up agenda.”

The first Islands Forum will be chaired in Orkney in September this year by Secretary of State Michael Gove. Representatives of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will join others from Scilly, the Isle of Wight, Anglesey and Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland, as well as representatives from the Inner Hebrides and Northern Isles.

The pictures show Iain Stewart MP at the Isle of Harris Distillery and at Wee Studio in Ness (Iain Stewart MP).