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Island growth deal projects worth £25 million go forward for approval

Shellvolution one of the four Island Growth Deals put forward for funding. Supplied by Michael Tait
Shellvolution one of the four Island Growth Deals put forward for funding. Supplied by Michael Tait

Four projects worth nearly £25 million in the Islands growth deal have been submitted to the Scottish and UK Government for approval.

Mussel farming, sustainable green jobs, and low carbon fuels all feature in latest business cases.

The Islands Growth Deal was developed by Western Isles, Orkney Islands Council and Shetland Islands Council together with their partners in the public, academic, business and community sectors.

Jobs boost for islands

The programme will consist of a total of 18 projects and aims to create up to 1,300 jobs in the islands, tackle depopulation and unlock additional private sector investment – estimated to be worth around £235m.

The most recent four to be put forward include the £4.4m  ShellVolution, a ten-year research and development programme to help the mussel farming industry in Shetland and throughout the Highlands and Islands, is one of the four projects hoping to unlock funds.

Supplied by Michael Tait

Shetland currently produces around 75% of all mussels in Scotland.

The other three projects submitted to governments for approval are:

A programme to create opportunities for sustainable “green” jobs across all three island groups called  TalEntEd Islands is set to cost £5.9m.

The Scapa Flow Future Fuels Hub, which will enable the supply and distribution of low and net zero fuels to be established in Orkney, requires £6.5m.

The second phase of the Orkney Research and Innovation Campus (ORIC2) at Stromness, will require up to £8m.

Outline business cases have also been submitted for the Islands Centre for Net Zero, the Outer Hebrides Food & Drink Programme, Outer Hebrides and Shetland Campus Redevelopments, and the Creative Islands Wellbeing Programme totalling £26.6m.

Hope to tie up deal by end of year

Western Isles council leader and chairman of the joint committee Roddie Mackay said: “We aim to secure a full deal agreement in 2022 and rapidly move to implementation of the growth deal.

“I have been delighted to see outline business cases coming forward that will have potential impact across key sectors across all of our island groups, and the effective way joint working between our public, private sector and academic partners in progressing the growth deal.”

Supplied by Graham Flack

In 2020 the UK and Scottish Governments committed £50m each in support.

Orkney Islands Council leader James Stockan said: “We hope that the projects will give a degree of support for the economy in terms of investment and job creation.

“There are merits to be had for each island area and we are looking forward to seeing what the future holds as the projects progress.

“This is an exciting time for all our islands.”

Investment help pandemic recovery

Ministers signed off on the deal earlier this year, with Scottish Office minister Iain Stewart hailing it “transformational”.

Shetland Islands Council leader Steven Coutts said: “Project leads from the council and our partners are working hard to develop their outline business cases – the next stage in the journey which sees us move towards achieving full deal as quickly as we can.

“Shetland’s portfolio of innovative projects will create highly skilled jobs and training opportunities right across our islands, delivering lasting benefit for our communities.

“This investment will be timely as we recover from the pandemic over the coming years.”

The Island deal follows similar agreements in the Highlands, Moray, Aberdeen and elsewhere in Scotland.

The deals have enabled economic development projects that may not otherwise have gone ahead, according to auditors.

They have also sparked increased collaboration between councils and their partners, like universities.

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