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August 2002


Communities in the North Highlands will benefit from a rural development programme that has secured some £2.5 Million pounds of European funding. The Programme is part of the Leader + initiative which was announced today by Peter Peacock MSP, Deputy Minister for Finance and Public Services.

Mr Peacock met today with members of the "Active Abriachan Millennium Project1" to hear how their project had benefited from Leader II funding and to see what differences this had made to youth in the Highlands.

The Highland Wellbeing Alliance2 welcomed the announcement, which acknowledges their success in securing this funding from the European Union’s Leader + Programme which will enable young people and rural communities across the north and west of Highland to implement projects that they themselves have come up with.

The programme will be co-financed by a range of partners, including Scottish Natural Heritage, Highlands and Islands Enterprise Network, and The Highland Council, as well as private and charitable organisations, bringing the total project funding to around £5.7 Million.

This programme will allow a broad range of initiatives to be funded under the two themes of youth development and use of the area’s natural and cultural heritage as a means of delivering community development. It will also encourage projects that unlock creativity and innovation ranging from dance and drama to heritage surveys or volunteering.

The Programme will be very much community orientated with representatives from the community and from interest groups making up 50% of the advisory groups who will decide on where the money should go. Young people will comprise 50% of the local partnership groups who will decide on how some 60% of the youth theme budget should be spent.

David Green Convener of The Highland Council and Chairman of Highland Wellbeing Alliance said: "This is a great opportunity for us. The programme actively encourages the promotion and development of our natural heritage and our young people. These are key areas for building a successful future for the area. The breadth of the programme will allow a wide range of communities to become involved and we hope it will generate many different projects."

Simon Fraser, Chairman of the Scottish Natural Heritage North Areas Board said: "The Highlands has a unique cultural and natural heritage, which is recognised, throughout the world. Securing this funding demonstrates the economic and social value of this heritage to the people of the Highlands."

Jackie McGuinnity, Head of Strengthening Communities, Ross and Cromarty Enterprise said: "Capable, confident young people who are actively involved in deciding the future direction of their communities can only be an asset to the Highlands. Involvement in the programme will give participants an opportunity to develop skills and, who knows, it may be the first step for some of our future leaders. Over and above this it gives the opportunity for a wide range of community groups to learn from the experiences of others both in the UK and in Europe."

Calum Duncan, Chair of Highland Youth Voice said: "I believe that young people like myself will want to get involved when they see the type of projects that can be funded under this programme. Its exciting to think that youth bands or an on-line magazine for young people is the type of thing that might get support."

The main aim of the programme is: "To achieve a significant and lasting improvement in the quality of life of the North Highland area and its communities, by making it the best place in Scotland to be young and by enhancing the value of its natural and cultural heritage."

Along with the EU funded Community Economic Development (CED) programme, Leader + will build on the foundations of the previous Leader II initiatives and will complement a number of community-based national and regional action programmes, including Community Planning, the Highland Youth Strategy, Social Inclusion Partnerships, new Community Schools, and the INTERREG IIIC programme.

Although young people (aged 14 to 25) are a prime target group for the programme, it will also be of direct benefit to small and micro-businesses, to the unemployed and to women in the North Highlands.

Active Abriachan Millennium Project – Abriachan is a community on Loch Ness side, south of Inverness. The project involved the production of a multi-media archive of life in Abriachan – past and present covering subjects such as local history, natural history, archaeology and culture, as well as profiles of people living in Abriachan.

The group produced a CD Rom showing a year in the life of Abriachan. This involved a youth group taking photos throughout the year, recording community events, local people at work and developments in local projects such as the Abriachan Community Forest. The young people also learned about the meanings of Gaelic names locally. Older residents were interviewed and their experience of life in Abriachan was recorded.

Associated with the Abriachan Forest Trust and the Abriachan Community Forest the local youth also gained experience in woodland training and assisted in woodland brashing to help clear forest paths.

2The Highland Wellbeing Alliance is the community planning partnership for Highland involving The Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Northern Constabulary, NHS Highland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Communities Scotland, the Voluntary Sector and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry. The partnership also has links to a wide range of public, private and voluntary sector agencies.