More than 120 communities across the Highlands and Islands are among the first in Scotland to benefit from the Scottish Government’s £350 million package of support to address the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.
The £40 million Supporting Communities Fund, which forms part of the Scottish Government’s support package, is being administered across the region by development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
The fund includes an initial £10 million investment that is being distributed to communities through eligible community organisations that play an active role in providing vital local services.
A further allocation of £10 million has been approved to support the second phase of the fund.
Already, HIE has approved 129 grants worth £2.68 million to community anchor organisations located from Argyll to Shetland, and from the Outer Hebrides to Moray.
Each organisation will coordinate a targeted and joined up approach to help those most in need, working alongside other third sector organisations, charities, volunteers, local authorities and statutory bodies.
More than 250 rural and urban communities across the Scotland are set to receive funding in the coming weeks and months.
Douglas Cowan, director of communities and place with HIE, said:
“Everyone in Scotland is being affected to some extent by the impacts COVID-19 is having on our economy and society.
“There is already an incredible support network of community organisations and development trusts across the Highlands and Islands, involving thousands of volunteers and key workers.
“They do a range of practical things to help others, such as making hot meals, organising grocery and prescription deliveries and providing wellbeing support.
“Distributing funding through these anchor organisations gives local people the power to make the choices that are right for their communities and ensures the support goes to help those who need it the most.”
Communities and Local Government Cabinet Secretary Aileen Campbell said:
“People living in rural communities across the Highlands and Islands face significant challenges in accessing basic needs such as health and social care services, food and fuel.
“That’s why the incredible community response to COVID-19 in the past weeks has been vital, and it has already made such a huge difference to so many people.
“This inspiring work in our neighbourhoods is proving essential to our nation’s resilience.
“This funding will be a valuable lifeline to continue the range of innovative support available for people in our communities, and we are working fast to get that support to where it is needed most.”