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Highland Council chosen as pathfinder in Scottish Government’s Green Growth Accelerator Programme with first projects to benefit, which are driving investment in low carbon infrastructure, announced on Friday by Just Transition Minister Richard Lochhead

By Ian Duncan

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Councillor Trish Robertson.
Councillor Trish Robertson.

Highland Council has been officially named as one of the pathfinder organisations in the Scottish Government’s recently announced Green Growth Accelerator programme.

The first projects to benefit from the programme, which is driving investment in low carbon infrastructure, were announced on Friday by Just Transition Minister Richard Lochhead.

Highland is one of five local authority pathfinders, with projects which range from the development of hydrogen hubs to the restoration of peatland and energy efficiency upgrades of buildings.

The council’s project looks at Climate Action Coastlines – research and implementation of natural coastal adaptation solutions, including tree planting, peatland restoration, sand dune strengthening, saltmarsh restoration, and floodplain development.

The Scottish Government will provide up to £1 million to support the pathfinders through the development phase of the programme, which together could unlock £40 million of local government investment in green infrastructure, backed by long term Scottish Government funding commitments.

Future funding commitments will be based on the achievement of project outcomes including carbon emissions reductions and green economy opportunities. The Green Growth Accelerator programme, developed with the support of the Scottish Futures Trust, was launched to provide a catalyst for public and private investment in low carbon infrastructure projects across Scotland.

The Scottish Government will work with COSLA and local authorities to learn from the pathfinders ahead of a further rollout of the programme in 2022/23, with an ultimate aim of unlocking £200 million of low carbon capital investment, underpinned by government funding.

Councillor Trish Robertson, the chairwoman of the council’s Climate Change Working Group and the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, said: “Highland Council is fully committed to the fight against climate change and the local authority wholeheartedly supports the Just Transition to a net zero society.

“We are delighted to have been chosen as one of the five pathfinder organisations which is testament to the work the council has already been doing to reduce emissions.”

The council recently announced its new strategy, Future Highlands – Health and Prosperity Strategic Partnership Plan. It is an ambitious collaborative approach to progressing five Strategic Partnership Priorities (SPPs), one of which is the creation of a Green Energy Hub in Highland.

Cllr Robertson said: “Highland is the largest council area in the UK and offers potentially limitless green energy resources. The transition to a carbon neutral economy represents a very significant economic, social and industrial opportunity for the Highlands.

“Furthermore, a sustainable and successful energy sector will also underpin wider regional economic growth in the Highlands.”

Works is already underway on the following:

• Development of a Green Energy Hub at the Longman in Inverness;

• A green port – Opportunity Cromarty Firth

• New built infrastructure – schools, housing, hospitals, HMP Inverness prison and strategic ports;

• Greening the fleet - shared hub and bespoke place-based fleet depot; public and private sector collaborative;

• Highland Renewable Investment Fund

The Green Hub and the importance of hydrogen will be some of the topics covered at the council’s online Highland Climate Change Conference taking place on Thursday, October 21, and Friday, October 22.

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