£1 million opportunity for Highland communities

Community organisations across the Highland region are being urged to bid into SSE’s Sustainable Development Fund as it re-opens this week.

Groups have until 20 January to register an interest in the £1m fund, which is provided as part of SSE’s community benefit programme for its onshore wind farms.

The Sustainable Development Fund was launched in 2013 to support community projects with the potential to make a significant and sustainable difference to people and communities.

To date the fund has distributed nearly £2m in grants to help 65 community organisations, including securing 25 jobs in the Highland region alone, as well as supporting affordable rural housing projects, collective growing initiatives, high-speed broadband and local energy schemes.

This second funding round was launched today (Friday) by Professor Jim Hunter, former HIE chairman and panel member for the fund, and Murdo McGhie, SSE’s Director of Onshore Renewables as they visited beneficiaries from the Cairngorms Skills Project, a local apprenticeship scheme which was granted £57,000 in 2014.

They met with Connor Chalmers , 19, from Aviemore, who is undertaking an apprenticeship in joinery through a placement funded by the Sustainable Development Fund.

Professor Hunter said: “I am delighted to have this opportunity to see first-hand of the benefits our Sustainable Development Fund is helping to secure for young people here in Strathspey. This is just one of many projects we’ve been able to help with in different parts of the Highlands – projects that have enabled communities to create jobs, launch renewable energy ventures, deliver affordable housing and otherwise move things forward.

“It’s long been my conviction that Highland development is all about people and communities taking charge of their own future. By assisting them to do just that, SSE’s Sustainable Development Fund is making a real contribution to Highland betterment.”

Murdo McGhie, Director of Onshore Renewables at SSE, said: “It’s great to see the benefits of SSE’s renewable energy schemes flow into the communities that host them, delivering positive changes that will sustain in the long-term.

“The Sustainable Development Fund works in tandem with SSE’s local community funds in the Highlands, helping a wider group of communities to deliver transformational projects. I look forward to the see the results of this round and in the years to come.”

Applications of over £10,000 will be accepted from non-profit making organisations, community groups and charities based within the Highland local authority boundary. Projects neighbouring SSE’s renewable energy developments will be prioritised.

After registering an interest, applicants will have until 17 February to submit a full application, with funding decisions made public in April 2016.

Following a recent review of the funding themes, successful projects will achieve one of the following outcomes:

Theme 1 Creating opportunities:  Create or enhance opportunities for education and employment through activities that develop skills and improve an individual’s chance of entering the workplace.

Theme 2 Empowering communities: Empower communities to become more resilient and protect vulnerable residents through measures which demonstrate long-term social, environmental or economic improvements. This could include energy projects or initiatives which combat the effects of rural isolation.

Theme 3 Sustainable places: Stimulate meaningful regeneration to improve or enhance local infrastructure, landscape, biodiversity or heritage and make a lasting difference to the places we live, work and visit.

Rt. Hon. Jack McConnell, who chairs the Sustainable Development Fund panel, said: “The Sustainable Development Fund has helped bring 30 transformational projects across the region to fruition, delivering long-term benefit to Highland communities.”

“Taking stock from the first round, we want to ensure the fund is fit for the future and continues to meet the needs of communities. A recent review of the fund themes in consultation with communities and stakeholders means we are now better placed to maximise the impact of future projects in some of Scotland’s most fragile communities.”

To find out more about the fund, or to download an Expression of Interest form, visit – sse.com/community/sustainablefund/