Councillors have approved a pilot grant scheme to make the most of £2.37 million of crown estate funding.
Grants of between £10,000 and £100,000 are expected to be given to charities, community groups, voluntary organisations, social enterprises and other organisations based in the isles.
The new scheme was discussed at an SIC meeting on Monday afternoon, which is the first to be recorded and published online for public access.
The revenue generated by the Scottish Crown Estate’s marine assets is allocated across 26 local authorities with coastlines. The SIC was allocated £1.36 million in July this year, which was £350,000 more than it received in 2019.
The pilot scheme prompted several questions and debate from councillors at Monday’s meeting.
A motion from leader Steven Coutts was carried with support from 12 councillors, which added that applications for approval below £50,000 would be considered by a panel of officers and anything above this would be presented to the SIC – the motion also removed an appeal procedure.
When councillor Catherine Hughson asked to add outside representation into the panel Mr Coutts responded that he had “total faith” in officers’ assessment of applications.
An amendment to Mr Coutts’ motion from Moraig Lyall was also passed: to change the wording of one of the scheme’s aims from “increased prosperity” to “improved wellbeing” to better reflect the proposed social benefit of the scheme as well as its financial impact.
Ms Hughson had earlier raised this point of social benefit as well as economic growth.
John Fraser’s amendment to Mr Coutt’s motion to consider applications from religious organisations “for non-religious activities” was supported by three councillors and did not pass.
Mr Fraser had argued that these organisations benefitted people “the length and breadth of Shetland” in this way.
The two-stage application process for funding includes an expression interest first and then a full application form by invitation, with applicants looking for over £25,000 potentially required to submit a business justification case or business plan.
Public sector bodies being able to apply for the “welcome funding” had also raised queries from councillor George Smith.
Development committee chairman Alastair Cooper said it needed to be recognised that this was a pilot scheme and was “testing the water”.
The scheme will run until 1st September next year and then be reviewed.
The council’s development committee will manage the scheme.