Communities in the Highlands and Islands have been awarded more than £2 million to find new ways to overcome poverty and inequality, with Support in Mind Scotland receiving £227,027 for an innovative Highlands and Islands Connections project.

The funding will be delivered through the Aspiring Communities Fund (ACF) and is supported through the European Social Fund.

The funding will benefit 22 community and third sector groups who will use the investment to deliver innovative and long-lasting projects which tackle inequality and poverty, support inclusion, and improve people’s lives.

The projects span across arts and heritage, local history and environment, creative writing, and music and dance. They include mentoring schemes for young people, developing local energy companies, supporting community transport, outdoor learning and skills building programmes.

Innovative new ways to strengthen community connections across the Western Isles and Argyll & Bute will be explored.”

Jim Hume

Support in Mind Scotland, who support up to 1,500 people each week in Scotland experiencing mental ill health around 80 per cent of them being in rural locations, is delighted at winning support from the Scottish Government’s Aspiring Communities Fund.

Jim Hume, Support in Mind Scotland's Director of Policy and Public Affairs, said: "Our Highlands & Islands Connections Project is an initiative which will take place throughout 2019 and in to 2020. Innovative new ways to strengthen community connections across the Western Isles and Argyll & Bute will be explored.

"There shall be two members of Support in Mind Scotland staff working in each of these remote and rural areas of Scotland managed by Ros Halley, to build community resilience and support for those experiencing poor mental health.

"The Highlands and Islands Connections project will work with the National Rural Mental Health Forum and its membership to connect individuals in these Highlands and Islands communities."

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell visited Ecologia Youth Trust’s Growing2gether in the Community project in Inverness today (Friday, 15 February) to announce the new funding, and meet some of the participants.

Ms Campbell said: “Local communities understand what works in their own areas, and this funding will enable them to help create a more equal Scotland.

“It will support organisations across the Highlands and Islands to deliver tangible, innovative approaches to improve lives, based on local priorities, and will address poverty and inequality in their area.

“Each of the projects backed by the Aspiring Communities Fund is empowering and enabling local people to tackle the disadvantages they face, leaving a long-lasting positive impact on their communities and their lives.”

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) works with more than 200 community groups and social enterprises across the region and supported the development of the fund.

Douglas Cowan, HIE’s director of strengthening communities said: “The fund offers a significant opportunity for community organisations across the Highlands and Islands to develop and design a range of locally relevant services to address local circumstances and needs. 

“It is designed to empower communities and will help to strengthen community resilience, sustainability and quality of life. It’s great to see projects in the Highlands and Islands receiving support through this fund which will help them deliver new initiatives and services for their communities.”

The £2 million is part of the overall £24.8 million Aspiring Communities Fund which supports projects that will tackle poverty and inequality at a local level.  To date, more than £15m of ACF has been committed.  The fund is supported through the European Social Fund to enhance social inclusion and combat poverty across Scotland.

The funding includes European Social Funds and supports the Scottish Government’s Fairer Scotland Action Plan.

The awards will not be affected by Brexit, as HMT have guaranteed EU Funds to approved projects before the UK leaves the EU. The Scottish Government has passed on this guarantee to all approved projects.

The successful projects are:

An Lanntair - Full Circle Western Isles

British Red Cross - Enhancing Resilience in Remote Island Communities

Broadford and Strath Community Company Ltd - Broadford and Strath Forest School

Caithness Voluntary Group - Caithness Development Officers

Care Lochaber - West Lochaber Community Transport Project

Cearns Community Association - Cearns Community Development Project

Community Energy Scotland - Western Isles Community Energy Trust

Comunn Eachdraidh Nis - Integrated Pathways

Cothrom Ltd. - Grow Me

Ecologia Youth Trust - Growing2gether in the Community

Highland Third Sector Interface - Community Led Solutions to Tackle Poverty and Reduce Inequality

Kilmarnock Station Railway Heritage Trust - The Station Hub Project (Garelochhead)

Kinloch Historical Society - Kinloch Community Inclusion Project

Kyle of Sutherland Hub Ltd - Hub Community Outreach & Development

Mhor Collective - Our Places, Our Stories

North Lands Creative - Community Design House

Support in Mind Scotland (SiMS) - Highland and Islands Connections

Taigh Chearsabhagh Trust - Cridhe Ar(t) Taigh Chearsabhagh

Timespan – Helmsdale Heritage and Arts Society - Engagement and Education Programme

Urachadh Uibhist - Consulting and Preparing the Case for an Outdoor Nursery Service in Uist

Urras Coimhearsnachd Bhradhagair agus Arnoil - Grinneabhat Taigh Ceilidh

Voluntary Action Orkney - Enhancing Well-Being Within Our Island Communities