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Governments announce £100m cash boost for isles as PM heads north

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles are to benefit from a £50 million UK Government funding package, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced, tonight, Wednesday, ahead of a visit to Scotland.

It has been widely reported today that, in addition to this financial pledge for the isles, Mr Johnson will make a personal visit to Orkney to deliver the news, tomorrow, Thursday. Details of this are, as yet, not confirmed officially.

A further £50 million in funding has also been confirmed tonight by the Scottish Government, as part of the Islands Growth Deal.

The two packages of funding are set to be released among the three island groups over the course of the next 15 years.

During his Scottish visit, the PM is set to meet local businesses to discuss how they are getting back on their feet. He also plans to hold discussions with entrepreneurs to see how green technology is driving innovation across Scotland, and to meet with members of the military to thank them for their efforts in the coronavirus response.

This trip to Scotland marks one year since Mr Johnson took office as Prime Minister.

In pledging this funding to Scotland’s island groups, Mr Johnson reaffirmed his “unwavering commitment to the union.”

“When I stood on the steps of Downing Street one year ago, I pledged to be a Prime Minister for every corner of the United Kingdom,” the Prime Minister said, today.

“Whether you are from East Kilbride or Dumfries, Motherwell or Paisley, I promised to level up across Britain and close the opportunity gap.

“The last six months have shown exactly why the historic and heartfelt bond that ties the four nations of our country together is so important and the sheer might of our union has been proven once again.

“In Scotland, the UK’s magnificent armed forces have been on the ground doing vital work to support the NHS, from setting up and running mobile testing sites to airlifting critically ill patients to hospitals from some of Scotland’s most remote communities. And the UK Treasury stepped in to save the jobs of a third of Scotland’s entire workforce and kept the wolves at bay for tens of thousands of Scottish businesses.

“More than ever, this shows what we can achieve when we stand together, as one United Kingdom.”

Following the Islands Deal announcement, the UK Government’s Scottish secretary, Alister Jack said: “The City Region and Growth Deals will be crucial to our economic recovery from coronavirus. Today’s announcement means that every corner of Scotland will benefit from these and takes the UK Government’s investment in growth deals across Scotland to more than £1.5 billion.

“These deals are just part of the unprecedented support that the UK Government is providing to people and businesses in Scotland during this time. We have supported 900,000 jobs in Scotland with our furlough and self-employed schemes, including 11,600 across the islands.

“We look forward to working with our partners across the islands and the devolved administration in Scotland to develop innovative and effective proposals.”

Speaking on the Scottish Government’s pledge, secretary for transport, infrastructure and connectivity, Michael Matheson, said: “The Islands Growth Deal is the final regional growth deal to be announced and marks our commitment to invest across all of Scotland, which is something we have pushed for. This money will work to improve the quality of life for island communities, alongside the Scottish Government National Islands Plan we introduced to the Scottish Parliament at the end of 2019.

“This significant investment will support islanders’ ambitions to create world-class visitor destinations, lead the way to a low carbon future, support growth and future industries and help the communities thrive by attracting and retaining young talent, driving inclusive and sustainable economic growth and delivering long lasting benefits for people living across the three island authority areas.

“It is important that all deals take account of the unprecedented economic challenges created by coronavirus (COVID-19) and we are working with partners, to understand how best to move forward and respond to current circumstances.

“More than £1.8 billion has been committed by the Scottish Government to City Region and Growth Deals and related investments across Scotland, in addition to ongoing capital investment in Scotland’s islands across a range of policy areas.”