A NEW support fund has been launched to help local communities in the North Highlands during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Community Support Programme, set up by North Highland Initiative (NHI), will provide grants of up to £1000 for small initiatives in the education, conservation, and community service and support sectors in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross and Cromarty. Priority will be given to initiatives which are ineligible for government support packages and emergency grants.

The NHI was established in 2005 to help unite the farming community, local businesses and tourism industry to address challenges facing rural communities in the far north of Scotland. The NHI also works to build and develop a regional identity for the area.

And now, initiatives which can demonstrate they have been established as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic can apply for the Community Support Programme. They must show that their project meets a “genuine and urgent community need”, and that it carries no financial benefits for private individuals within the community.

The Community Support Programme will not support applications from statutory organisations, individuals or projects outwith the North Highland region.

Applications opened today, with a deadline of 30 April.

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David Whiteford, chair of the North Highland Initiative, said: “Our Community Support Programme is a means of financial help, aimed at communities that are experiencing particular hardship as a result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

“Our aim is to target areas, projects, and local initiatives for which government support packages may not be able to assist, and those ineligible for emergency funding.

“With a limit of £1000 of funding per project available, this allows us to provide multiple smaller grants aimed at reaching out to as many communities as possible.”

He added: “Application forms are now available on our website and funds are ready to be distributed. Our Community Support Programme structure will be periodically reviewed in line with the progress of the current pandemic.”