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Highland business leaders back latest ‘choose local’ drive as £10m fund is launched to transform towns and neighbourhoods in Sutherland and the rest of Scotland to boost the fightback from the coronavirus pandemic

By Ian Duncan

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Minister for Community Wealth Tom Arthur, right, with Scotland's Towns Partnership chief officer Phil Prentice. Picture: Jamie Simpson / Scotland's Towns Partnership
Minister for Community Wealth Tom Arthur, right, with Scotland's Towns Partnership chief officer Phil Prentice. Picture: Jamie Simpson / Scotland's Towns Partnership

Groups in the Highlands are being urged to get a share of a £10 million fund to transform towns and neighbourhoods to boost the fightback from Covid-19 which has been launched.

Town centre leaders say the need for people across the Highlands to choose local and back businesses in their community has never been greater.

The Scotland Loves Local campaign aims to build on the likes of promotional projects in places including Inverness and Nairn, as well as other schemes.

Inverness City Centre Business Improvement District (BID) benefited from Scotland Loves Local funding last year to promote more than 100 businesses in the Highland capital.

Mike Smith, the manager of Inverness BID, said: “It has never been more important for local people to shop local, think local and support our local enterprises.

“This is why we welcome the Scotland Loves Local Fund. This support has already helped us to showcase the amazing local businesses that we have across Inverness, encouraging people to enjoy all that the city has to offer. The new round of funding provides a fantastic opportunity for us to build on that support, helping businesses across Inverness to thrive.”

Nairn Connects BID has also previously secured support through Scotland Loves Local to promote community partnerships and develop its 20-minute neighbourhood concept.

Lucy Harding, the manager of Nairn Connects BID, said: "The Scotland Loves Local Fund is great news for Nairn. The town has already benefited from this valued support with the creation of new active travel maps and renovation of public display noticeboards, encouraging people to explore and enjoy this wonderfully vibrant and accessible place.

"Local people and visitors alike have clearly embraced the love local message and are showing their support for the fantastic businesses we have in Nairn. The new Scotland Loves Local Fund will allow us to further promote and support those local businesses - maintaining the positive momentum which is helping us on the road to recovery."

It is hoped that work across the Highlands will be further enhanced by the new Scotland Loves Local Fund – with organisations urged to apply.

The programme will provide match funding of between £5,000 and £25,000 for projects run by groups such as BIDs, town centre partnerships, chambers of commerce, community and charity trusts.

Administered by Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) it aims to bring new, suitable, creative projects and activity to towns and neighbourhoods – helping build local wealth and increase footfall and activity, while supporting local enterprise partnerships. Eligible projects could include community shops, marketing and digital schemes, or enabling larger construction project delivery.

Community Wealth Minister Tom Arthur said: “To support Scotland’s towns and neighbourhoods recover from the pandemic we are launching a new £10 million Scotland Loves Local Fund. This will provide 50 per cent match funding for local projects between £5,000 and £25,000.

“Whether it be funding for small-scale improvements or adaptations, climate or active travel programmes, home delivery digital schemes, pop up shops and markets, or the direct funding or expansion of Scotland Loves Local loyalty card schemes – communities will be able to decide how best to improve their local area.

“This 100 day commitment of the Scottish Government reinforces our determination to support all of Scotland’s communities recover from the pandemic and will help strengthen the vital support being provided through the Scotland Loves Local marketing campaign and loyalty card scheme.”

Applications for grants are open from now until Friday, 1 October 1. A total of £2 million-worth of grants will be available this financial year.

STP Chief Officer Phil Prentice said: “Over the coming years, this significant commitment from the Scottish Government will make a real difference - empowering communities to take action that will make their areas fairer, greener and more successful. We are delighted to be working with ministers to deliver this.

“This funding will unlock the great potential of our towns and neighbourhoods, allowing them not just to recover from the impact of Covid-19, but to create a stronger, more sustainable future which has localism at its heart.

“I would encourage interested organisations across the Highlands to get their applications in.”

Last year, an initial Scotland Loves Local Fund to help with immediate issues caused by the pandemic saw a number of projects in the region benefit.

They included initiatives to promote local producers in Lochaber, Fort William, Mallaig, Arisaig, Kinlochleven, Glencoe and Ardnamurchan, support for the Highland Food and Drink Club’s Home from Home promotion and a ‘shop local’ campaign in Wick.

News of the fund has been announced as local businesses are urged to sign up to accept the new Scotland Loves Local Gift Card ahead of it becoming available to consumers later this year. The new local gift card initiative will encourage consumers to spend in local businesses, and lock spend into the local area.

More details about the Scotland Loves Local campaign – and how to apply to the new fund – can be found here.

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