Orkney MSP Liam McArthur today welcomed the launch of the Highlands & Islands Athletes Travel Scheme.
Under a new scheme, launched today by the Scottish Government, National Lottery, sportscotland and the three island local authorities, support totalling £45,000 will be made available to island athletes over the next three years to help cover the cost of travel.
Having called for such a scheme to be introduced during a debate in Holyrood on the Island Games last summer, Mr McArthur said he was “delighted” with the announcement. The idea also featured in the Liberal Democrat manifesto at the 2016 Holyrood elections.
Commenting today, McArthur said:
“Orkney is a community where sport plays an extremely important role and is highly valued. The recent Orkney Sports Awards provided ample evidence of this and the success we are seeing at all ages and across a range of sports.
“Nevertheless, one of the real barriers faced by many island athletes are the costs involved in traveling for competitions and training. Often these can prove prohibitive. While some support is available, not least through those who provide our lifeline air and ferry services, I have long argued for more to be done to enable our athletes every opportunity to fulfil their potential.
“During the election in 2016, Liberal Democrats proposed a travel fund for Island athletes. This was a call I repeated when the Scottish Parliament held a debate on the NatWest Island Games ahead of the competition in Gotland last year.
“At the time, the Islands Minister, Humza Yousaf expressed his sympathy for such a proposal. I am therefore delighted that progress has been made and that a pilot scheme is to be established. I congratulate the local sports groups, Orkney Islands Council, SportScotland and EventScotland who all helped make the case to the Scottish Government.
“As someone who is heavily involved in Orkney’s bid to host the Island Games in 2023, I am well aware of the need to help lay the foundations for the future success of our young athletes. I think this scheme can help play a part and demonstrate the case for sustaining such a fund over the longer term.”