Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has received a £1.7m funding boost as its share of the net revenues from Crown Estate marine assets in Scotland.
The award comes as part of the first round of annual payments from the Scottish Government to local authorities since the devolution of Crown Estate marine assets in Scotland, and the Comhairle has now set in place a scheme to identify suitable community projects to benefit from the funding.
Scottish Government guidelines state that the funds must be used by local authorities as additional expenditure for projects ‘that benefit coastal communities’.
A report before the Comhairle’s Policy and Resources Committee this week (Wed) stated that, following the Comhairle’s ‘community conversations’ over service redesign, part of the funding will be used in twelve local island communities ‘where there is scope to develop community partnerships’.
The communities identified include Barra, Uist, Harris, Lochs, Uig, Bernera and Carloway to Lochganvich, Ness and the Westside, Point, Back and Tolsta, Tong, Stornoway North and Stornoway South.
Funds will be also allocated from the award for the delivery of regional marine planning and Crown Estate asset management, and with £100k per council ward being awarded for infrastructure works, and a £38k ward fund for other community projects.
The Comhairle aims to have identified community projects for backing from the fund by March 2020.
Comhairle convenor, Cllr Norman A MacDonald stated at the committee meeting that the Comhairle had to be “mindful” that the funding was intended for the benefit of coastal communities and should be earmarked for projects that support infrastructure for economic development and to support enterprises, such as fish farms, which Cllr MacDonald stated, generate income from the Crown Estate assets.
During debate on the issue, councillors backed an amendment to the proposed spending plan by Stornoway South councillor, Charlie Nicolson, that will now see £22.5k of the fund being set aside to support the costs incurred by island-based sports men and women attending off-island events, which Cllr Nicolson stated would assist talented local sports people to remain living on the islands.
In 2014 the Smith Commission recommended that revenues from Crown Estate assets (out to 12 nautical miles) in Scotland be returned to local authorities.
The report before councillors detailed that the funding award this year covers revenues generated in 2017/18, and the Comhairle received 23 per-cent of the total funding from net revenues of £7.5m generated by the Crown Estate in Scotland in that year, the largest award to a local authority in Scotland.