A new fund set up to support athletes from Scottish islands travelling to the mainland to compete was launched in Lerwick on Friday.
Up to eight athletes from each of Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles could benefit from a total of £45,000 in funding over the next three years.
The money is being offered to help towards the travel costs of athletes from Scotland’s islands and has been made available by the Scottish Government, sportscotland, local councils and the National Lottery.
Financial support of up to £1,500 with be available per athlete each year over the first three years of the pilot project.
Sport minister Aileen Campbell was in Shetland on Friday to launch the fund, and met with a number of potential future stars during her visit.
She 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.”
Applications for funding can be submitted from this month and each local council will identify those athletes who will benefit from support following a selection process.
SIC convenor Malcolm Bell said: “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”
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott, who had been pressing for funding to be made available for isles athletes for some time, also welcomed Friday’s announcement.
He said: “This is a start. Shetland’s sports groups have made a strong case to the government, sportscotland and the SIC for a scheme that recognises the extra travel costs and sheer commitment that island athletes make to compete on the mainland.”
Mr Scott added: “The aim is to help emerging talent and elite athletes as they develop their careers. I know that there are many more individuals and teams who could do with assistance to participate in national competitions. So I recognise that this is a pilot scheme. We must monitor its effectiveness and recommend changes that can help and encourage more Shetlanders to participate in sport.
“The ultimate aim must be to help another generation follow in the footsteps of Andrea Strachan, Lynda Flaws and Erraid Davies who were such outstanding members of Team Scotland at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.”