REGIONAL projects and businesses across Scotland have been awarded funding to promote locally sourced food and drink.

A total of 21 projects will share £95,550 from the Connect Local Regional Food Fund.

Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon announced the funding on a visit to IJ Mellis Cheesemonger in Edinburgh where she met producers from Fine Cheesemakers of Scotland.

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The group has been awarded £3450 for a range of projects, including ways to promote cheese as a pairing to whisky at distillery visitor centres and in restaurants.

Gougeon said: “I have been hugely impressed by the standard and range of food and drink initiatives across Scotland. Innovative projects like these not only help local economies grow, they also promote the importance of locally produced food and drink and the environmental benefits of sourcing produce close to home.

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“This fund helps collaborative groups such as Fine Cheesemakers of Scotland create new opportunities for small businesses and producers and promotes Scotland’s world-leading food and drink sector.”

Fine Cheesemakers of Scotland chair Jane Stewart said: “We are delighted to be a recipient of the regional food fund award. One of our objectives is to collaborate to raise awareness of the diverse range of artisan cheeses made across Scotland and this funding allows us to increase our marketing activity.

“We are proud to be producing award-winning cheeses and excited about targeting different sectors so more people have the chance to enjoy our wonderful cheeses, which are part of the diverse selection of food and drink Scotland has to offer.”

Connect Local is a free, advisory service for the local Scottish food and drink sector, which is funded by Scottish Government and European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

The local and regional food fund is also supported by the Scottish Government. Applicants can apply for grants up to £5000.

Since 2018, £355,327 has been awarded to 78 innovative projects. Among the current awards were: Ayrshire Food Hub – £4900; Bridge of Allan Food & Drink Town – £5000; Bute Kitchen – £5000; Outer Hebrides Food Tourism Strategy – £5000; and Taste of Orkney Festival – £5000.