ST ABBS may be one of the smaller east coast communities but its vibrant community where tourism, diving, fishing and marine research are managing to successfully work side by side made it the ideal working harbour for Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, to visit and officially invite Scottish towns and villages around the coast to apply to the Coastal Communities Fund.
The £4 million for Scotland’s coastal communities was described as “paltry” by the Scottish Government’s Finance Minister John Swinney who wants to see all the Crown Estate gross revenue made available to communities rather than the 50 per cent announced by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, last summer. £1.85 million from the fund is going to the Highlands, with £2.05 million for the rest of Scotland from the overall £23.7 million available throughout the UK.
Michael Moore said: “Here in the Borders, our coastal communities play a vital role in our local economy and this innovative fund has the potential to give them a real boost.
“I will be working with local organisations to encourage them to tap into this fund to improve the wellbeing and opportunities of people in the area.
“I know that the Crown Estate has been the focus of much debate in recent months and I am glad that this initiative will see coastal communities directly benefit from Crown Estate revenues which are often generated in their backyard.”
Now communities like St Abbs are being invited to apply for funding of £50,000 plus towards innovative community capital or revenue projects. From March charities, businesses, social enterprises and local community organisations, which support the economic development of the community, are being invited to apply for funding, with the final decision likely to be made at the end of the year.
Never a community to shy away from a challenge - St Abbs has already started work on an application to the Coastal Communities Fund.
The community trust, community council, harbour trust, and marine station developers are working together on a regeneration plan for the harbour, creating picnic areas, commercial units for the village’s ten creel and mackerel fishermen to store fridge freezers for bait in the summer months, plus additional funding for the marine station being built at the harbour. The marine station is a not-for- profit scientific initiative which aims to be a centre of excellence for marine biology research, working with local fishermen to prove to bodies such as the Marine Conservation Society that by working together it is possible for fishing to be sustainable.
Marine biologist Dr Keith Todd said: “What we would like to do is with the other stakeholders form their vision of the future, finding a balance between commercial fishing and the environment.
“The St Abbs marine life is unique because of the biodiversity here and it’s also unique because of its geography.
“One of the key things is that there are a lot of species that like cold water and others that like warm water and the two different water types meet at St Abbs. We are going to monitor any changes or movements - such as the fish in the warmer water moving north or the other way around. It’s also important to look at animals that can’t swim, such as anemones as they can’t move, to see how they cope with any temperature changes.”
While visiting St Abbs last Thursday, Michael Moore said: “I’m looking forward to going around to see the marine centre. They came to see me a while ago and it’s really exciting to see this come to pass. As a local, over the last ten years or so I’ve loved bringing visitors to St Abbs and along the coast to see how it has been successfully and carefully developed and hopefully now to be completed with grants by accessing this fund.
“It’s a great message to other parts of Scotland because there are competing interests but things are changing and the fishermen are learning to live alongside tourism interests. The importance of this is that it’s a living breathing sea port and it will be up to the communities to come forward with ideas. Applications should be in by March and decision time will be December this year.
“With this and the EU Fishing Fund we can bring things together to work to the advantage of Berwickshire.”