Is new cash pot good for the Islands’ Deal?

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Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan recently called on the new Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack to ensure the UK Government gives the go ahead to the Islands’ Deal.

Growth Deals formed the backbone of new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s charm offensive around the UK last week, and as part of that whistlestop tour, it was announced that £300 million of new funding will be shared across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

On the support for Growth Deals, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “It is time that we unleashed the productive power not just of London and the South East but of every corner of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Important projects like government’s Growth Deals – backed with £300m of new funding – will open up opportunities across our Union so people in every corner of the United Kingdom can realise their potential.”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack added: “It’s fantastic news that the Prime Minister has committed to ensuring that every part of Scotland benefits from UK Government Growth Deals.

“We will work closely with the Scottish Government as well as partners in Falkirk, Argyll and Bute and across the Islands to ensure these, as with the existing deals, will be focused on supporting local priorities and needs.

“The UK Government has already committed nearly £1.4 billion to City Region and Growth deals in Scotland.

“Eight are already in place and work to sign a ninth in Moray is underway.

“I look forward to every area of Scotland benefiting from the boost to jobs, growth and opportunities that the deals are delivering.”

Since 2017, the three Island Councils in Scotland: Comhairle nan Eilean Siar; Shetland Islands Council and Orkney Islands Council have been working together to develop ambitious proposals to include within a deal for the Islands.

The Islands’ Deal includes specific and cross island proposals covering areas such as low carbon energy, tourism, housing and healthcare.

And although the annoucement of £300m in new funding has been hailed as a positive step for the country, it is not clear exactly how positively the Islands Deal will be impacted by the new funding, as at the moment, no further information is available about how big the Islands’ share of the pot will be.

Talking about the new funding annoucement, Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan, said: “There was a frightening lack of detail available in the the Prime Minister’s statement.

“The statement implies that the £300 million announced will be split across the three City Region Deals in Scotland - the Islands, Falkirk and Argyll & Bute - and the four City Region Deals proposed for Northern Ireland.

“When you consider that the Inverness-Highland Deal alone totalled around £300 million it is obvious that this is not nearly enough for seven deals.

“The three Island Councils have been working together for some time to take forward a Deal for the Islands. A contribution of the scale implied by the Prime Minister’s statement would severely curtail their ambitions.

“Having dragged its feet on the Islands Deal for far too long, the UK Government must urgently disclose the full details of announcement to the island councils and commit to giving the islands their fair share.”