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Sports Minister announces Island Athlete Travel Award Scheme to support talented athletes from Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles

Potential sporting stars of the future are set to benefit from a new initiative to provide additional funding for athletes from Scotland’s islands to help them with the cost of travel to competitions.  Sports Minister, Aileen Campbell, made the announcement today (Friday, 2 February) at the Clickimin Sports Centre in Lerwick, Shetland, together with three young swimmers from Lerwick Swim team who will be hoping to benefit from the new fund.

The pilot scheme is designed to support travel costs for athletes from the island communities of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.  Up to eight athletes from each local authority will benefit from the additional support, with up to £1500 available per athlete each year over the three years of the pilot.

The investment has been made available by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery, through sportscotland, the national agency for sport, with additional contributions from each local authority.

Speaking from the Clickimin Centre in Lerwick, Sports Minister, Aileen Campbell, said:

“I am delighted to be here today to announce funding of £45,000 for the Island Athlete Travel Award Scheme to support talented athletes from Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles with their additional costs of travel.

“I’ve met some of those young athletes today and it’s been great to hear how they’ll benefit from the scheme – which will complement the extensive services already available locally to performance development athletes through the sportscotland Institute of Sport, as well as demonstrating the Scottish Government’s commitment to help meet the unique needs of Scotland’s islands.”

Over the past five years, over 75 athletes, 15 coaches and 15 service providers have benefitted from bespoke, locally delivered training to ensure that the island athletes are able to train in a high performance environment, as they would on the mainland.  This includes sessions on nutrition and performance planning, as well as ongoing physiotherapy, physical preparation and medical support. All of the services are integrated with their training to ensure the athletes get the best possible support without leaving the island.

However, it was recognised that the missing piece of the jigsaw has been support with the additional costs of travel for island-based athletes and the Island Athlete Travel Award Scheme is designed to mitigate that cost.  Welcoming the support of all the partners who have made this project possible,

Stewart Harris, Chief Executive, sportscotland, said:

“At sportscotland we are building a world-class sporting system to give everyone in Scotland the opportunity to take part in sport and physical activity at every level.  But that is not something we can achieve alone and this new scheme is a terrific example of where partnership working can deliver real results. 

“Our partners in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Orkney and Shetland Councils have shown great commitment to the athletes from their island communities, and, by combining our resources, we have been able to give those athletes the support they need to deliver on the world stage.”

sportscotland has also invested in the facilities used by the athletes on the islands, with five physical preparation facilities enhanced and improved in Shetland, Orkney, Lewis and Benbecula.  Coupled with direct investment in building and improving sports facilities, including the Clickimin Centre where today’s announcement was made, island athletes with aspirations of performing on the world stage and feeding the UK world class system will be the best supported they have ever been.

All three island authorities have committed their support, giving their athletes a comprehensive support package to help them achieve their goals in their chosen sports.

Councillor Angus McCormack, Chairman of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Education, Sport and Children’s Services Committee, said:

“Investment in sporting facilities in addition to the dedication and commitment that our young people have demonstrated has seen them become fantastic ambassadors for our islands. However, we do, of course, encounter similar challenges to our colleagues in Shetland and Orkney in terms of travel and the associated costs for attending events and therefore we are delighted that sportscotland have announced this Award Scheme. Our Island Games team returned from the 2017 Games with a record haul of medals and we hope to build on that success in the coming years.

“This is a fantastic scheme which will ensure that our top island athletes receive the support they deserve in order to compete on a level playing field. We are grateful to sportscotland for their continued investment in sport in our islands.”

Councillor Rob Crichton, Chair of Orkney Islands Council’s Education, Leisure and Housing Committee, said:

“Our high performing athletes in Orkney face specific challenges because of the potentially prohibitive additional travel costs for training and competition – no athlete should be disadvantaged because of where they live. I’m delighted that sportscotland are stepping up to the plate to support these athletes and allowing them to compete on a level playing field.

“As we look to potentially hosting the Island Games in 2023 it’s more important now than ever to support our best athletes to be at the top of their game so they can excel in a sporting rivalry and occasion that is in the best tradition of personal and team commitment, dedication and belief.”

Councillor Malcolm Bell, Convener of Shetland Islands Council added:

“I am delighted that the Scottish Government and sportscotland have recognised the disadvantages our top sportspeople face in being able to compete regularly outwith Shetland due to the cost of travel.

“This will help redress the balance and should provide the incentive for them to achieve even greater things.  We look forward to seeing more of Shetland’s sportspeople being able to compete on a national and international stage.”

The scheme opens in February and following an application and selection process, athletes will be identified for support by each local authority.

– Source – Sport Scotland link


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