Highland youngsters in the fast lane to success thanks to £1m SSE fund

Young people in the Highlands are one of the key beneficiaries in the latest round of awards from the SSE Highland Sustainable Development Fund. 

SSE has awarded over £1m in grants to 20 projects in the Highlands including leading youth mentoring charity DAY 1’s social enterprise at Inverness Kart Raceway, two local apprenticeship schemes in East Sutherland and an ambitious renewable energy project on the Isle of Canna.

Chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies and the chair of the Sustainable Development Fund Panel, Lord Jack McConnell, visited the Inverness Kart Raceway site to meet with Ed Ley-Wilson, co-founder of DAY 1, and some of the young people who have completed the DAY1 mentoring programme.

Alistair Phillips-Davies said he was delighted SSE was able to support Highland communities – and their young people – to achieve.

He said:  “SSE is committed to sharing the value of its onshore wind developments with communities and it was great to see first-hand how our funds are supporting ambitious projects such as the raceway.  It was particularly inspiring to hear from the young people who, thanks to the sterling work of DAY1, have great plans for their future.”

“Community benefit funds are playing an important role in supporting sustainable local development and creating legacies for the communities we work alongside.   Like SSE, this funding is here for the long-term and I would urge community groups across the region to prepare their bid for next year.”

Lord McConnell leads the panel which selects projects to benefit from the Highland Sustainable Development Fund.  He said: “The core ambition of the Sustainable Development Fund panel is to support transformational projects that will make a real and lasting difference to individuals and communities across the Highland region.

“This round of funding has certainly delivered on that objective.  As demonstrated by the brilliant young people I met today, I’ve no doubt these grants will help change lives and deliver benefits for years to come.”

Founded in 2005, DAY 1 engages young people aged 14-17 in Inverness-shire who are struggling with formal education and are unlikely to find employment.  The charity opened Inverness Kart Raceway with all profits go directly to the charity to sustain their mentoring and employability services. 

The £150,000 grant from SSE will help purchase the currently leased site, improving the sustainability of the venture and helping to fund a new programme “Let’s Get Driven” which combines learning with vital hands-on work experience at the raceway.

Ed Ley-Wilson, co-founder of DAY 1 said:   “Five years of hard work is really paying off. The track is getting rave reviews and this grant from SSE is the icing on the cake. Enabling us to purchase the site, the grant will further enhance our long term sustainability. On behalf of the vulnerable young people in the region who are benefitting from our services we would like to thank SSE for their incredible support.”

Funded by SSE’s onshore wind farms, the SSE Highland Sustainable Development Fund is open to all non-profit making organisations, community groups and charities with a project that will provide benefit in the Highland region. It has three priority areas, Creating Opportunity, Empowering Communities and Building Sustainable Places, and is expected to release over £20m in awards over the next 25 years.  The fund will open again in autumn 2017.

In total, the fund issued grants to 20 projects worth £1,019,844 in this funding round, including awards of £72,000 and £49,000 to two apprenticeships schemes in East Sutherland.  Both locally-run, they match young people, who would otherwise leave the area, to a local business who can provide an apprentice with a path to sustainable employment.   

A £100,000 award to the Isle of Canna Community Development Trust will provide the final funding for their ambitious project to create an entirely renewable electricity solution to power the island’s homes and businesses.   The island is not connected to the mainland electricity grid and currently relies on environmentally-damaging diesel generation. 


Organisation Project description Amount
Day 1 - Inverness Kart Raceway 

Towards the purchase of the race track facility, reducing leasing costs and allowing investment in "Let's Get Driven” employability scheme.

Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust

Toward the purchase of the derelict Lady Ross Hotel in Ardgay and transform the site into a business hub and create new housing opportunities.

Gairloch and District Heritage Company (Gairloch Heritage Museum

Towards a project torelocate the Gairloch Heritage Museum to the former Anti-Aircraft Operations Room (AAOR) in Achtercairn.

Isle of Canna Community Development Trust

Towards the installation of a renewable energy powered grid to serve the current population and businesses. 

Gordonbush Apprenticeship Scheme 

To extend an existing local apprenticeship scheme, supporting another 12 young people and associated local businesses.

Applecross Community Company 

Towards the construction costs of three two-bedroom houses which will provide affordable accommodation for elderly and disabled.

Fort Augustus and Glemoriston Community Trust 

To purchase and rebuild the local doctors' surgery which was destroyed by fire and create a community-owned medical facility.

Historic Assynt - Clachtoll Broch The project will excavate, consolidate and record the Cachtoll broch site, restore visitor access and install new interpretation £50,000 
Kyle of Sutherland Apprenticeship Scheme To extend an existing local apprenticeship scheme, supporting up to another eight young people and associated local businesses.
Nevis Partnership

To support the 'North Face' path project will see two historic paths linked and offering unparalleled access to, and views of, the iconic North Face of Ben Nevis.


Alzheimer Scotland

To support a Dementia awareness and engagement programme in the North Highland area.


The Shieling Project Community Interest Company

Towards the development of an outdoor sustainability learning centre for use by schools and youth groups in the Highlands and across Scotland. 

The Embo Trust

To renovate the old school for use as a community hub with multi-purpose hall, meeting room, café and community shop.


Abriachan Forest Trust

To create volunteering programme to increase the production and sales of firewood and to develop transferable woodcraft skills supporting vulnerable people from the wider community. 


Caithness Rural Transport

To replace the community minibus with a new vehicle.


Lochaber Action on Disability

Towards the purchase of a minibus with full disabled access.


Strathpeffer Pavilion Association

Towards the refurbishment of the Strathpeffer Pavilion including replacing the inefficient heating system.


North West Highlands Geopark

To employ a development officer to work for 18 months to improve the sustainability of the geopark development.