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Dismay over lack of new homes built through Scottish Government fund for island house building

Liam McArthur MSP
Liam McArthur MSP

Only seven island homes have been completed under a Scottish Government scheme to boost house building in Scotland’s most remote communities.

Island politicians were last night dismayed by the lack of progress since ministers introduced the £5 million Island Housing Fund to help build new homes across the Northern Isles and Hebrides.

The fund was launched in September 2016 with the aim of building 100 new homes in the islands by 2021.

But in an answer to a Holyrood question tabled by Orkney MSP Liam McArthur, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart revealed just 16 homes had been approved through the fund so far and only seven finished.

Mr Stewart said a further 20 projects had been helped with “feasibility support” and disclosed that around £1.34 million of the £5 million pot had been allocated to the fund’s projects.

Mr McArthur said: “Our island communities have a pressing need for more affordable homes, yet these figures show that the Scottish Government is much better at constructing press releases than they are at bricks and mortar.

“Construction work in our island communities comes with its own set of challenges but there is no excuse for such a slow start to this scheme.

“Those with experience of the scheme suggest there are too many ‘obstacles’ in the way of drawing down funding.

“The Scottish Government must do far more to remove those obstacles and support communities in developing applications.”

A lack of affordable housing on islands has long been identified as a key barrier to reversing the population decline that they have suffered over the years.

However last month a joint statement by research institutes, communities and public sector organisations said there was evidence of “green shoots” of population turnaround, though it has yet to show up in official statistics.

The Islands Revival Declaration was drawn up by Aberdeen-based academics from the James Hutton Institute, Scotland’s Rural College, Community Development Lens (CoDeL) and Community Land Scotland.

Cameron Anson, Island Home Development Officer with Rural Housing Scotland, said: “I would like to see a lot more houses, but with small island communities it is going to take around three years to get things up and running.

“It is disappointing it is taking so long, but there needs to be more support and boots on the ground.”

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