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Scotland Regeneration Capital Grant Fund: Projects set for £25m funding boost

A St Kilda visitor centre, an Art Deco pool and disused flax mill are to receive funding to help bring them to life.

It sits on the edge of the map, requiring a long journey by boat over choppy waters for anyone keen to fully explore the evocative story of St Kilda and people.

Now, however, an ambitious project to help make St Kilda’s fascinating story a little more accessible has received a major cash boost to help drive the plans forwards.

The proposal for a St Kilda visitor centre on the west tip of the Western Isles one of 22 projects in locations scattered across Scotland which will share £25 million of funding aimed at boosting communities, reviving old buildings and creating new work and volunteering opportunities.

The various projects, which bring community groups together with local authorities, include £2.3 million towards a skills and innovation centre in the former mining community of Kelloholm in Dumfries and Galloway, £4 million for a technology hub in Shawfield, Glasgow, and £2 million for a new hub in Edinburgh’s Muirhouse estate.

The North Edinburgh hub will become the focal point of a £14.6 million project which will revamp the estate, blighted for years by its ‘Trainspotting’ links.

Meanwhile, in Glasgow, £650,000 of funding is being provided to help transform the former headquarters of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland at Olympia House, Bridgeton, into a new space for local businesses.

The building, designed in 1927 by Glasgow architect John Hamilton in 1927, the principal architect for the Salvation Army in Scotland, is owned by regeneration organisation Clyde Gateway.

The Scottish Government’s annual Regeneration Capital Grant Fund is intended to help tackle inequalities and promote sustainable and inclusive economic recovery from the pandemic.

It’s said the latest funding will help to support up to 3,000 jobs, training and volunteering opportunities and reduce local carbon emissions.

The award is a major boost for plans by the community of Uig in the west of the Isle of Lewis, which has strived for a decade to create a long-awaited St Kilda visitor centre on the site of a former radar station, at the edge of a dramatic cliff at Mangersta.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Ionad Hiort/St Kilda Centre has received £950,000 towards the £6.25 million project, intended to reflect the culture and heritage of the island which was evacuated of its last permanent population in 1930.

A handful of Ministry of Defence staff and National Trust for Scotland employees including a ranger and archaeologist are based at the island, which typically receives around 5,000 visitors every year. Many more, however, are unable to visit due to weather and the remoteness of the island group.

A concept design for the centre showed futuristic buildings with floor to ceiling windows looking towards the archipelago. The plans include innovative digital and remote access technologies which will tell the story of St Kilda’s people and culture, and real-time footage of its sea life, birds, landscape and abandoned crofts.

The Lewis project is one of three separate schemes being planned across different island sites. One being proposed for North Uist will include a viewpoint, and another in Harris will focus on genealogical research.

Joni Buchanan, Depute Chairman of Ionad Hiort/St Kilda Centre, said: “St Kilda’s story is a pertinent one that applies to the isolated and remote corners of Europe.

“It’s important to us, because we are also seeing similar and more gradual population decline.

“This centre is critical for us because of the jobs and economic repercussions, as well as telling this universal story.”

Also included in the Scottish Government funds is £750,000 for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Cnoc Soilleir to create a centre in South Uist which will promote Gaelic language, culture, music and dance.

There is also £565,000 for a community business hub in Tiree, £285,000 for community facilities on the island of Kerrera, off Oban, and more than £600,000 to create new ferry facilities for the growing community of Ulva.

While in Aberdeenshire, £1.5 million is being given to boost restoration plans for the art deco pavilion at A-listed Tarlair outdoor pool in Macduff, on the Moray Firth in Aberdeenshire.

The pool, which opened in 1931, catered to an inter-war boom in swimming and sunbathing and featured two sea water pools, one for boating and the other for swimmers, along with an Art Deco pavilion and changing huts.

The pool closed in 1996 and has been used by Macduff Model Boat Club.

Friends of Tarlair Community Group, which has a 99-year lease on the disused lido, is now seeking match-funding to complete the pavilion restoration project and to kickstart fundraising for the development of the swimming pool.

Councillor Ross Cassie, chairman of Macduff Development Partnership, said: “This is an iconic art deco building being brought back into use thanks to money from the Scottish Government.

“And it obviously brings with it hopes of regeneration for Macduff.

“We are all very keen to see Tarlair, which is something really special, brought back into use and to draw people to the wider area.”

While in Fife, a bid to bring a former flax mill in Leven’s Silverburn Park back to life as a visitor centre and community hub has received £1.5 million.

The Flax Mill Project is managed by mental health charity Fife Employment Access Trust (FEAT) which wants to transform the derelict B-listed building into a visitor centre, community hub, cafe, shop, hostel, and an arts and crafts studio.

Community Wealth Minister Tom Arthur said: “The last few years have been tough for us all but many of Scotland’s communities have been more impacted than others.

“The latest projects are working to tackle inequalities and create vibrant town centres and neighbourhoods.

“By securing investment from this £25 million fund, these innovative projects demonstrate the powerful role those in our communities can have in helping to transform their town centres and neighbourhoods by investing in their future.”

COSLA’s Environment and Economy spokesperson Councillor Steven Heddle said: “The diversity of projects supported is testament to the success of identifying local solutions to enable people to live well locally.”

Matt Lammie, Chair of Kirkconnel & Kelloholm Development Trust, which has received £1.3 million for an innovation centre developed with Dumfries and Galloway Council, said: “It will make a real difference to regenerating our area, connecting us to the wider world, and most important of all it will help our young people to get the skills that the need so that they can live, work and prosper here where they were brought up rather than having to move away.”

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