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£20m wind farm funds helping communities cope with coronavirus

By John Davidson

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Point and Sandwick Trust’s Beinn Ghrideag community wind farm on Lewis. Picture: Sandie Maciver/SandiePhotos
Point and Sandwick Trust’s Beinn Ghrideag community wind farm on Lewis. Picture: Sandie Maciver/SandiePhotos

Community groups are turning to wind farm cash to help vulnerable locals during the coronavirus pandemic.

The money – part of a £20 million a year community benefit pot paid by wind farm developers to communities in Scotland every year – is usually spent on local projects.

But a growing number of groups are now repurposing the funding to support those in hardship because of the ongoing health emergency.

On the Isle of Lewis, community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust has announced it will use all its free cash for this year to set up a pandemic support fund for the local community.

Calum Macdonald, development manager for Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “We are very lucky that there have been no reported infections in the island as yet and we pray that it remains that way. But whatever happens, we will have to pull together to help each other and also to help the fantastic health and care workers we have in these islands to tackle this virus.

“That is why the board has decided to use all its spare income in 2020, or to the end of the emergency, to set up a pandemic community fund. We will have discussions with local organisations including Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles to work out how the fund can best be used. We also hope to have discussions with other funding partners and intend to support work being done locally by Point, Sandwick and Stornoway community councils and others.

Development manager Calum Macdonald. Picture: Sandie Maciver/SandiePhotos
Development manager Calum Macdonald. Picture: Sandie Maciver/SandiePhotos

“The full impact of the pandemic in those countries worst affected has been traumatic. We have to be ready for it coming here, when it will be all hands to the deck.”

Foundation Scotland administers community benefit payments on behalf of communities and is working with a growing number on the coronavirus pandemic.

Rachel Searle, the organisation’s head of communities, said: “The ethos of community benefit funding is that it is spent on issues which matter locally, and the current emergency has really brought that to the fore for people.

“We’re seeing communities trying to think creatively about how to get funds to where they are needed most. Some are already promoting availability of emergency funding, others are making established processes more flexible. And to do all this community representatives we work with are hastily embracing different digital platforms and adapting quickly to virtual ways of working to make swift decisions for the benefit of their communities.

“We have contacted a number of the wind farm developers whose funds we administer and they have all been delighted that the money is being spent in this way.”

Claire Mack, chief executive of industry body Scottish Renewables, added: “Almost £21 million in community benefit payments is given to communities across Scotland every year and this unprecedented response to the coronavirus pandemic shows how industry and communities can work together on the issues which really matter.”

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