The Islands Green Recovery Programme

Through its newly launched Islands Green Recovery Programme, the Scottish Government will invest £2 million in locally-led green projects to support economic recovery from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Split across four strands and delivered by four partners, the programme will support island communities and businesses to take forward a range of capital projects.

Further details here and more to follow soon.

The Icing on the Cake for Castlebay Christmas Tree

Castlebay Christmas Tree was enjoyed by many on Barra and beyond when it was erected in December 2019 and throughout the festive season.

We are now delighted and honoured to announce that we have been shortlisted for an Epic Award (Scotland) 2020 and the People’s Choice Epic Award.  The Epic Awards are the premier awards for voluntary arts and creative groups across the UK and Republic of Ireland, with 29 groups shortlisted in total.  A winner and runner-up for Scotland will be chosen from seven Scottish groups shortlisted for this year’s Epic Award.

The Tree had been months in the planning.  People had been busy crocheting and knitting squares on the islands and across the globe to be a part of our Christmas decoration.  Crochet classes were organised.  Much thought also had to go to the structure of the tree, it needed to be well anchored and to withstand our winter winds.  We thank every single volunteer who played their part to make it happen.

Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery was also instrumental in making this project happen by providing the funding for the structure and the lights.  Janet Paterson of the Lottery Team said ” we were very impressed with this initiative which fully met the objectives of the Lottery. We therefore had no hesitation in approving the application for funding. The uniqueness of the project and how it inspired people from all over the world to join in was outstanding.

Full funding has now been made available for the construction of this year’s second tree and we can’t wait to see the result”.

The other Scottish Projects are

  • BeeKind – A community drama show in Aberdeenshire that took inspiration from the collaboration and teamwork of bees.
  • Bridgend Eco-Bothy – A group of volunteers in Edinburgh who transformed a disused building into a hub for community and creative activity.
  • Campsie Fest – A twice-yearly festival in East Dunbartonshire that keeps the village hall open with its fundraising.
  • Comrie Cinema Club – A volunteer-led events club in Perthshire that stopped locals having to travel a 52-mile round-trip to visit the cinema.
  • The Spit it Out Project – A group of young artists in Edinburgh who use visual and performance art to heal trauma and promote sex positivity.
  • Stirling Photography Festival – A volunteer-run festival that celebrates local and international photography, working with partners throughout Stirling.

 Jemma Neville, Director of Voluntary Arts Scotland said: “We are always so impressed by the range of projects that enter our annual Epic Awards, and this year is no different. The groups on our 2020 shortlist not only make a huge difference in their own communities, but are shining examples of what can be achieved when volunteer effort and creativity come together. Picking a winner and runner-up will be no easy task for our judging panel, but we hope members of the public will join us in this endeavour by voting in the People’s Choice Award.

Sarah MacLean, one of the Christmas Tree Team, said “we are extremely honoured to be included in this shortlist with these other fantastic projects and we were all delighted with how well the Christmas Tree was received.  We are already planning tree two and look forward to again adding some sparkle to Castlebay this Christmas.  We are extremely grateful to Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery for supporting us.”

Members of the public now asked to vote for their favourite in the ‘People’s Choice Award’ Place your vote here:  Voting closes on 20th September.

Since last Christmas, the Christmas Tree Team have planned another tree.  Through the COVID pandemic, they have also been busy developing and delivering online crochet classes through lockdown and beyond, not only on Barra but to people throughout the UK.  Sarah MacLean added “The online crochet classes have been super, giving people a chance for a chat and to meet new people while also learning a skill.  We have had many squares already arrive from different countries to be part of this years tree.  Making a square/s is a small positive project people can do at this time.”

If you want to get involved in Castlebay Christmas Tree you can make a square/s (12cm x 12cm) and send it to us.  You can contact us through FB and Twitter @BarraBunting.



Castlebay Christmas Tree is a project managed by Beairteas Bharraigh Ltd.

Beairteas Bharraigh translates as the Wealth of Barra.  Beairteas focuses on increasing island sustainability, promoting local skills, developing local produce and reducing waste.


10,000 islanders making global connections through the Virtual Island Summit 2020

The Virtual Island Summit is back!  Over one very exciting week, Scotland’s island communities will have the chance to link up with islanders from around the world, learn of new innovations and talk about the burning issues and ideas important to the islands.

From Scotland, Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse, Angus MacNeil MP, Mark Hull of Community Energy Scotland and Francesco Sindico of Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law & Governance are amongst the speakers.

Scotland’s Islands Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, said:

“This event provides the opportunity to make connections and share learning with people from some of the world’s most unique locations. I will be discussing the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 which is a ground-breaking piece of legislation that helps to meet the needs of Scotland’s islands now and in the future. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every country across the world and there have been particular challenges that have been exclusively faced by islands. We have the chance to share how we have responded and adapted to the changing circumstances, noting new vulnerabilities in addition to some new found strengths.”

Taking place over 7-13th September, its set to be a thought-provoking and inspiring week with a fantastic line up of speakers and topics for discussion. Its free, open to everyone and you can book your place here.

The Summit has been developed by Island Innovation and its founder James Ellsmoor (an alumni of the University of Highlands and Islands) explains, “Islands often face similar challenges to one another but are forced to tackle them separately due to barriers created by distance, language, and culture. The Virtual Island Summit seeks to build digital bridges between island communities around the world, regardless of size, political status, or location.  In the face of emerging worldwide crises such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, the spirit of international problem-solving fostered by the Virtual Island Summit is more critical than ever.”

This year the Island Innovation team has been joined by over 150 volunteer ambassadors to build in even more networking and to bring a local dimension to the global event.  Scotland has four ambassadors, each aiming to make new island connections and gather good ideas.

Donnie Steele, Director of Storas Uibhist and Uist Gifts & Information says:  “I have been involved with Island Innovations for over a year now. It’s all about collaboration that brings people and Islands closer together. One of the best things about working collaboratively is people bringing different skill sets and backgrounds to the table and learning from their experiences. For me is about getting innovative sustainable development ideas that I can take to our community, anything that can help Island communities throughout Scotland and helping Islands globally by offering support and ideas that we have”.

Thibault Gras is a renewable energy graduate based in Orkney, “The Summit is a one of a kind opportunity to gather everyone. The more I look into it, the more I realise how poorly islands are represented in academia, the economy and policies. Because we are all islands, we are in a way very close, and the summit breaks that historical barrier. I am excited to see how we can make islands more represented by showing a united front. Scottish Isles are no Carribean State, nor the Philippines, but we have a lot more in common than just being surrounded by water.”

Kirsty MacColl is the Development Officer for the Scottish Islands Federation “ I’m really looking forward to the summit and in particular to the topics around electric ferries, island data, marine litter, next generation of island leaders, democracy and island responses to covid-19. We all have such a lot in common from energy transition, transport, broadband, enterprise, to solutions around health and social care and sustainable tourism. Having this virtual platform is so exciting: all of a sudden, it is opening the door to learning from each other, and it doesn’t matter if we are on remote islands at opposite ends of the globe.

Sharing ideas, highlighting challenges and promoting sustainability are all very much part of what we do at SIF and it’s really great to be part of the ambassador group, especially as our regional ambassador group includes the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands. We hope to keep this going beyond the summit and continue learning from each other and sharing all the good things happening on islands.”

Island Innovation brings together the private sector, government, utilities, NGOs and universities to advance innovation for sustainability and prosperity in islands worldwide. For more information, visit the Island Innovation website.