All posts by Kirsty MacColl

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.


Empowering Islands to achieve their energy and climate targets’ Scotland and Ireland

As part of the Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy Project, Scottish Islands Federation is delighted to invite you to take part in a webinar that will explore and share working examples on ‘Empowering Islands To Achieve Their Energy And Climate Targets, Scotland & Ireland’.  It is planned for Friday 19th June, 13.00-14.45 and you can register here.

Empowering Islands To Achieve Their Energy And Climate Targets for Scotland and Ireland

NESOI: new energy solutions optimised for islands

The NESOI Islands Facility, part of the Clean Energy for EU Islands Initiative, aims to support and fund island energy transition projects.

Background: Over a number of years, the collaborative work of Island Authorities, Scottish Islands Federation (SIF), European Small Islands Federation (ESIN), Community Energy Scotland and others has aimed to promote to the EU, the unique role and needs of islands in delivering energy transition.

Beginning in 1993 with ISLENET, the first network of island authorities promoting sustainable energy and environmental management, the Pact of Islands and the SMILEGOV project followed resulting in the development of the Smart Islands Initiative and Declaration.

In 2017, in recognition of the particular set of energy challenges and opportunities faced by islands, the EU commission, together with 14 minsters of energy from member states, signed the “Political Declaration on Clean Energy for EU islands”.

The Clean Energy for EU Islands Initiative (CE4EUi) aims to provide the catalyst needed to enable Europe’s island communities to become leaders in the clean energy transition.

Clean Energy EU islands Secretariat 2018 to 2020
The Secretariat was set up in 2018 to deliver a capacity building and advisory service and to create a new platform for sharing resources and good practice in island energy systems. Initially running for 3 years, there is a possibility that the Secretariat may be extended until June 2021.

The Secretariat supported 26 islands to develop an Energy Transition Plan, including 6 off-grid islands of Scotland (Eigg, Rum, Canna and Muck, Foula and Fair Isle) and islands within the Orkney Renewable Energy Forum. These plans will make it easier for islands to source funding to take forward their projects through the Horizon 2020-funded Clean Energy Islands Facility.

The Secretariat has developed an Islands Transition Handbook and has delivered a series of Webinars (some coming up over March, April, May).

The Secretariat is also developed an online platform to enable all those involved in island energy transition to connect, learn from and train each other, access experts and capacity building materials and work on their transition agendas together. Islands that have signed up to the Clean Energy for EU Islands Pledge be able to access the platform.

Clean Energy EU Islands Facility 2019 to 2023
Building on the work of the Secretariat, from the end of 2019 and until 2023, with €10M from Horizon 2020, the Island Facility will offer the analytical, financial and legal expertise needed to collect additional data and develop concrete investment plans for islands energy transition.

The consortium that won the contract to administer the Facility is NESOI (New Energy Solutions Optimised for Islands). Working closely with the Secretariat, NESOI will provide concrete support to the energy transition process, both at European level and in the implementation of interventions on (at least) 60 beneficiary islands, including training, technical support, co-operation and funding opportunities:

NESOI will help to leverage financial investment and will provide both direct and indirect support for island energy transition projects. The platform where islands can access support for energy transitions plans, as well as access ideas, tools and finance to support their projects, is currently being developed.


All pulling together: Galson Estate community response

Communities everywhere are going above and beyond to help each other out and make things as good as they can be. Early March, before all this kicked off, feels like a lifetime ago but it really is amazing to see what local groups and volunteers have managed to achieve in such a short and challenging period of time.

At Galson Estate it began with some forms to ask for volunteers and find out who needed help and has grown into a team of volunteers, a WhatsApp group for every village, collection and delivery services and even a YouTube channel with an exercise class, bedtime stories and bookbug sessions. It’s just brilliant and you can read more of the detail below from Lisa of Galson Estate Trust:

We were really fortunate as I think we managed to mobilise the community pretty promptly. Over 2 weeks ago I heard the first minister on the radio on my way into work and she mentioned “WhatsApp Trees”, so basically groups for folk who live on the same street etc. I thought it might be good to do this for the estate for every village (taking account of those who don’t have WhatsApp by recording a phone number). The idea was to account for every single household in a bid to foster a way of allowing people to help each other, so a mutual support as opposed to setting up a helpline and then having to match volunteers or becoming so swamped we could help no one properly.

So far the groups are working really well. It’s been a mammoth task, but we are just about there, and we see neighbours offering to do shopping, take in bins and even just saying “morning, how are you all today”.

We set up a private Facebook group to support those collecting numbers and to establish a volunteer group and this is also working well and helps us react and respond quickly to any gaps that might appear in services and support in the area.

We redeployed a member of staff who was keen to have tasks to become a delivery driver. The local car hire company were offering vans free of charge, so we quickly got insurance in place and decided to offer to do collections from Stornoway, from the local crofting co-operative, Lewis Crofters. The co-operative could no longer offer deliveries as they needed all staff to enable them to operate safely by running a drive thru operation, with telephone orders, so we thought to save crofters from the estate all driving to Stornoway and to support those who couldn’t do that due to self-isolating or whatever the reason might be. We now run this three days per week and have three drop off areas (large car parks at community buildings) across the estate. This is hopefully a good support ahead of lambing season.

We are delivering prescriptions from two surgeries across the estate 5 days per week. Volunteer drivers are carrying this out on a rota basis, and this too is working well as people can’t get out to collect prescriptions.

We have also set aside time for analysis and review of the various schemes of support and are proactively supporting organisations on the estate to work through what might be available to them.
We have also put volunteer support into one local shop to support it to stay open as it was essential for items, such as fuel and gas.
We are offering Gaelic and English Bookbug sessions on our newly created YouTube channel three times per week and today we launched a Gentle Movement class online and this will run every Thursday.

Our next piece of work is around the community newspaper, which can no longer keep running, so we propose to work in partnership with volunteers to deliver a free community newsletter to ensure information and news is still reaching the community. We realise that not everyone is online and we have to try our best to keep people connected to someone else.

We will continue to assess the gaps and try to do what we can to ensure the community are supported and feel secure during what is such a difficult and perplexing time.

The estate is obviously community owned and what better way to celebrate land ownership that to ensure the benefits from the asset support the community during the good times and the bad.

From Fiji to Fair Isle: Islands around the World and Covid 19

Limited access to emergency medical care, supply chains dependent on transport links (and the weather!) and with many older people in our communities, it can be scary living on a remote island during a global pandemic and a real challenge to plan a local, regional and national response. It is however, amazing to see how everyone, at every level is pulling together.

With this in mind, to help those islands that are further behind on ‘the curve’ than we are as well as to help us plan ahead, Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance and Island Innovation have teamed up to gather information on island responses from across the world.

You can read what has been collated so far here .  The survey questions are here and if you could spare the time to add  feedback from your own island that would be great.  You can email your response to Francesco.

CROC Talk – community response from Cumbrae

Here is another good example of the community response on the islands.

The Millport Support Group started off as a Facebook page to connect people but has grown into a collaboration with all the local agencies and groups including Cumbrae Forum, Cumbrae Community Council, the local churches and North Ayrshire Council.

The group liaises with Police, Pharmacy, and local NHS and Care Worker Teams to co-ordinate support and has a team of over 40 volunteers helping out with shopping, picking up prescriptions, dog-walking and much more.

CROC Talk has been a joint effort by the Group, Cumbrae Community Council, North Ayrshire Council and the Churches on the island. It has been really well thought out, containing such a lot of helpful information and has been delivered to every household on Cumbrae.  You can have a look at it here Croc Talk.

Community Support Hubs have also been set up across North Ayrshire and regular updates produced for each area – North Ayrshire Community Planning Partnership COVID 19 Update.

Islands Respond to Coronavirus

In such challenging and difficult times all communities are working hard to get plans and actions in place to make sure they are as well prepared as possible and that everyone is looked after.

Sharing ideas and information is one way we can help each other out and we have added some links to examples of island community responses to covid-19. We will keep adding to this and if you have links, templates, action plans etc that you could share please send us an email.

Isle20:  SIF is very pleased to be supporting this initiative set up by Rhoda from Tiree Tea. Many small businesses will struggle over the coming months and Isle20 is new directory of island businesses that can sell online. Its free to advertise – if you know of any producers or businesses that would like to be listed please ask them to go to You can also follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust: Eigg community response to covid 19

Tiree Development Trust: community information on covid 19

Isle of Lismore: community covid 19 response updates

Isle of Cumbrae: Croc Talk community information leaflet

All Pulling Together: Galson Estate community response

What challenges are you facing on your island?

Some of the challenges that we are seeing so far on the islands are around shopping supplies, the loss of the market for shellfish, loss of tourism and real concern about the number of campervans and second-home owners travelling to the islands.

We are working closely with the Scottish Government Islands Team to flag up island issues and if you have anything happening on your island that we can help to highlight please let us know.

Information & Resources

There are some quick links below and we will keep sharing information and ideas on Facebook and Twitter.

Government & Health Advice

Scottish Government Covid-19 Updates
NHS Inform
Guidance for non-health settings
Young People
Extremely Vulnerable Group – guidance on social shielding

Community Guidance & Resources

Third Sector Resilience Fund: this emergency fund for charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations is now open for applications.
Ready Scotland Advice for Community Groups.
SCVO has set up an information hub for voluntary organisations.
Scottish Community Development Centre.
OSCR has produced some useful guidance and some FAQ such as ‘what if we have to cancel our AGM’.
Volunteer Scotland has produced guidance for volunteers as well as blog with some further links.
Argyll & Bute Help for Communities is a useful guide for community groups.
Voluntary Action Orkney Resources.
Highland Council Helpline & Support.
North Ayrshire Council & CPP Community Support Hubs.

Support for Business

Scottish Government Find Business Support.
Scottish Chamber of Commerce has created a support hub which provides quick links to support and guidance. Your local chamber will have guidance on financial support – here is a good example from Lochaber.
ACAS has information about protecting your employees and workplace here.
Federation of Small Business advice and guidance for small businesses and self-employed.
GrowBiz is increasing its support for rural enterprises by offering phone or online advice sessions, and a great range of online learning and networking opportunities.
Business Gateway has produced information including checking your insurance, continuity planning and a link to advice for employers and employees.
The Scottish Tourism Alliance is providing guidance and a daily update on its website.
Association of Convenience Stores has information and posters for retailers.
Support for Scottish fishing industry.