Lews Castle and Arnish yard will benefit from a funding package of nearly £4million announced by the Scottish Government today (Wednesday).
Finance Secretary John Swinney announced a £105million package of economic stimulus for Scotland which includes investment in the island projects.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said £1.6m would be made available for the Lews Castle development though Historic Scotland over the next two years and that Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) would receive £2m for the Arnish plant and estate next year.
Welcoming the funding, Comhairle Leader Angus Campbell said: “This is an extremely welcome announcement of £1.6m for the Lews Castle project and this additional funding means that we can move ahead to tender the main works, enabling a start in early 2013 and aiming for completion in 2014. We still have an application in for ERDF funding to complete the package and we would hope to hear the result of that later this year.
An advance programme of exterior repair works to the castle is currently on site and these will be completed by the end of the year.
“At a time of serious economic austerity, this project will be an important economic driver and restoration of the Castle combined with a new museum featuring some of the Lewis Chessmen will provide a world class attraction”.
On the Arnish announcement, he added: “Renewable energy has the potential to provide a stepchange in the economy of the Western Isles and Arnish is an important renewables manufacturing site providing local employment. This money will help in upgrading Arnish which will attract more investment”.
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said the announcements were significant for the Western Isles:: “These are both highly significant announcements which John Swinney made in today’s budget outturn statement.
“The money for Lews Castle bring us close to a position where this spectacular building can be made ready for use both as a high quality hotel and much needed museum facility. All this would provide a very significant boost to the tourism industry in the islands.
“Meanwhile, the money for improvements at the Arnish yard secures this world class facility and its ongoing role in the renewables industry.
“The announcements by the finance secretary represent a major commitment by the Scottish Government to the islands and their economic future.”
A spokesperson for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said: “This is very good news. We have been lobbying the Government for a long time to complete the funding pack for the development of Lews Castle.”
Mr Swinney outlined proposals to support new investment and accelerate projects from future years to boost the economy and all of these projects are ready to be taken forward quickly to deliver the maximum economic impact from the funds available. They cover key policy priorities for the Scottish Government, including renewables, tourism, transport and housing.
Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Economic Growth John Swinney said:
“The Scottish Government is maximising the value of every public pound available as we take forward our programmes to support economic recovery and deliver high-quality, efficient public services.
“Our careful management of Scotland’s finances means that we are able to increase levels of capital investment now to boost our future prosperity.
“While these projects will support and stimulate economic growth, they will also deliver on a range of wider objectives such as environmental and health improvement, housing, greener transport, maintenance of our health estate, and culture and tourism. We are also focusing our support on local economies and investment in key geographical areas.
“By accelerating this programme of capital investment we are taking action where the Westminster Government has failed to do so. As I have said repeatedly, the UK’s austerity approach is failing to produce growth in the UK economy and we are doing everything possible, within our current powers, to make sure that that this doesn’t damage our efforts to build sustainable economic growth for Scotland.”