Environment and Climate Change Minister urged to back island coastal project

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Residents of South Uist are battling to protect their coastline from the impact of climate change have urged the Scottish Government to secure their project’s future.

Volunteers on the island have been working hard to tackle coastal erosion as rising sea levels and more frequent and severe weather events put their homes and livelihoods at risk.

Over the last year, the Lochboisdale Amenity Trust (LAT) has been running a community-led project to plant trees, create sand blow fencing and strengthen sandbanks.

They have also improved the island’s drainage systems to protect low-lying land from flooding. The LAT now hopes it can secure public funding to carry on its work and expand it to other islands.

Scottish Environment and Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson will see the work for himself today (Thursday) when he visits for the first time.

Seumas MacDonald, of the LAT, said: “Our volunteers have done great work in helping to guard against any further erosion of our island’s coastline. We’re very grateful to them all.

“They’ve built sustainable coastal defences and have planted around 20,000 trees that will help dry out wet land, and give shelter to crofting land, so that crops and vegetables can grow better.

“We hope Stewart Stevenson will be impressed enough to do everything he can to make sure our work can continue.

“The stakes are very high. We’re talking about the future of these islands and their people.”

The work done so far has been funded by the Postcode Lottery and Oxfam Unwrapped. The Trust will receive a further £40,000 from Oxfam next year.

The LAT and Oxfam are looking to raise funds which will allow the work to continue for another two years, and expand it to also cover North Uist, Barra and Vatersay.

Oxfam believes supporting the project would form part of a rounded Scottish Government approach to tackling the existing impact of climate change, whilst reducing future damage.

In June, Mr Stevenson travelled to Brazil to attend Rio+20 – the United Nations’ Conference on Sustainable Development - as part of the UK delegation.

The minister championed the new Scottish Climate Justice Fund – money which will help some of the world’s poorest people adapt to the impact of climate change.

However, Oxfam believes the Scottish Government must also deliver at home.

Last week, new figures revealed the Scottish Government missed its own targets for cutting carbon changing emissions – which increased between 2009 and 2010.

Jim Boyle, from Oxfam Scotland said: “We’re grateful and pleased that Stewart Stevenson has taken the time to visit South Uist to see the impact of this ground-breaking community-led work.

“The Minister recently announced the launch of the Scottish Climate Justice Fund, which will help fund this kind of work abroad.

“We believe the work in South Uist is a great example of that in our own country.

“Developing this successful project into a bigger programme to help other communities in the Western Isles will take additional investment – but we’re already spending money to protect coastal communities.

“This isn’t a question of extra money, but of using the existing money we have to support a successful, community-led model.”

During his visit Mr Stevenson will see the sand-blow fencing built by volunteers from South Uist with the help of other community projects from around Glasgow, who asked to help after being approached by Oxfam Scotland.