Local Community Grant programme commits £1.5M to Western Isles

Since the local LEADER Innse Gall programme began it has committed nearly £1.5m of grant funding to various community projects based throughout the Outer Hebrides and which contribute to various community needs.

The European community grant funding programme supports small-scale innovative and community led projects that will provide economic benefits to the local area and contribute to the sustainable development of communities.

The local programme has put this into practice through supporting a variety of projects including Carthannas Nis, who have now successfully expanded and developed their recycling and laundrette business. Through grant funding Barra Watersports have developed their community programme. The funding also supported the training of local instructors and purchasing boats to allow more to enjoy water sports on the island.

An Lanntair Arts Centre in Stornoway were also awarded funding to assist with providing a community arts educational project during the Hebridean Celtic Festival week.

The assisted projects vary in the benefits that they offer from supporting renewable projects, such as assisting to provide electric community transport to supporting educational and training opportunities like Cothrom’s ‘Re-Store’ project on South Uist.

The Crofting Connections project, which is a Scotland-wide project to encourage young people in schools to learn about and become involved in crofting and horticulture, also benefited from LEADER funding. The schools, including Sgoil nan Loch in Lewis, have learned about the history of crofting, studying soil fertility, and been taught about different crafts including spinning and weaving as well as learning waulking songs and the importance of bee’s to crofting areas.

On a practical level they have also been involved in growing seeds and traditional contemporary garden crops using new and old methods both outside and in polytunnels. The programme also assists communities to take the lead in their own development, an example is assisting the community of Tolsta in Lewis to purchase their local shop which they have now turned into a successful community enterprise and hub providing everyday groceries and other services to the area.

The £1.5m of grant funding that the LEADER Innse Gall Local Action Group have awarded to projects has been matched by over £1m extra being allocated from other local and national grant funding sources. This has resulted in projects amounting to over £2.5m being developed by communities throughout the islands.

The programme continues to attract further investment and grants to the Outer Hebrides with the most recent being the award of £310,300 from the Rural Broadband Challenge Fund to provide broadband infrastructure to the communities of Tolsta, Dalmore, North Harris and Grimsay who currently can not access broadband services.

The fund still has over £1.1m remaining and the LEADER Innse Gall Local Action Group are inviting communities to contact their local LEADER officer, either in Uist or Stornoway, to find out more or visit the website at www.outerhebridesleader.co.uk <http://www.outerhebridesleader.co.uk/>.