Sarah to spearhead recovery of islands

arah Baird is Arran's new islands officer.

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By Hugh Boag

Arran has its own islands officer whose job it will be to help the economic recovery of the island in the months ahead as it recovers from the devastating impact of the pandemic.

Sarah Baird has been appointed the first designated senior officer for the islands. The £50,000-a-year post will drive the development of ambitious 10-year plans to realise the potential of not just Arran but Cumbrae as well.

She will work closely in partnership with island communities, businesses and wider stakeholders to develop and facilitate the delivery of  plans to support recovery and renewal.

The Arran Recovery Group worked hard for the creation of the post and chairman Tom Tracey said: ‘With this appointment, combined with our cabinet member for the islands in North Ayrshire Council, we are starting to get the correct level of focus on island issues.

‘Next will be improved governance with more control over local decision making. It has taken us three years to get this far. These things take time, but they move us in the right direction.’

Sheila Gilmore, executive director of  VisitArran, added: ‘This is a really positive step for Arran and we look forward to working with Sarah in the near future, as she commences her role at the end of this month.’

It is part of an islands recovery and renewal pilot project, being delivered by North Ayrshire Council, the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), to look at new ways of supporting Arran and Cumbrae and the delivery of the National Islands Plan.

A key part of the pilot will be to explore ways of delivering an inclusive and green economic recovery, in light of Covid-19, while strengthening the islands’ voices to ensure the unique challenges and opportunities faced by islanders are reflected in national and local policy.

Sarah has a wealth of experience in economic and community development and collaborative working, including leading the pan-Ayrshire Leader rural development for more than 10 years and is currently delivering South Ayrshire Council’s approach to community asset transfer.

Councillor Gallagher, cabinet member for post Covid-renewal, said: ‘We have ambitious plans for our island communities of Arran and Cumbrae. A major part of my role is to work with the people on our islands, to listen to their needs and to ensure they are listened to locally and nationally.

‘I am absolutely delighted to welcome Sarah. She is going to be a huge asset to myself, the council and, of course, our islands, which have unique strengths and challenges.

‘The islands recovery and renewal pilot project will help realise the potential of both of our islands by working with communities and wider partners to develop ambitious 10-year island plans to support an inclusive and green economic recovery through community wealth building.’

Morag Goodfellow, area manager for Argyll and the Islands (HIE), said: ‘HIE is pleased to be supporting this important pilot project to support economic recovery from the pandemic on the islands of Cumbrae and Arran and we welcome the appointment of Sarah to the post of senior islands officer.

‘Within the context of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 and North Ayrshire Council’s community wealth building strategy, this project will support collaborative and innovative ways of working to achieve outcomes.’

Sarah said: ‘I am delighted to be appointed as the first dedicated islands officer for Arran and Cumbrae and will ensure the unique challenges and opportunities our islanders face are reflected in local and national policy.

‘I am very much looking forward to working with the island communities, businesses and wider stakeholders to maximise the opportunities that the islands recovery and renewal pilot presents in order to realise our islands’ ambitions.’

The £250,000 pilot will be co-funded by the Scottish Government, HIE and North Ayrshire Council, which will contribute £130,000 towards the pilot. Sarah will commence her role shortly.