The minister was speaking yesterday while on a two day visit to see successful rural community transport schemes. She was also inspecting the current work to make ready the Holmsgarth Pier in advance of the new NorthLink Ferry service scheduled to begin in October 2002.
Ms Boyack said:
'I am committed to increasing access to transport for all in our society That is particularly important for those living in rural communities reliant on lifeline services. The executive is seeking to encourage rural transport services through the£18m rural transport fund. And the Shetland Isles should continue to take the opportunity to tap into this.
'The executive's grant to the Sandwick Youth and Community Centre is a great example of how our money is supporting young people. It is now easier for young people to attend the club which was previously difficult because of the lack of an adequate bus service. Moreover, those families who didn't have their own transport were excluded and children were sometimes hitching lifts at night on unlit roads.
'Now, the new late bus, which the centre has been able to hire for the next two years, will bring equal to access the centre's resources to all the children in the area. Similarly, Association of Shetland Playgroups has made a good start to the new school term with their new service which will enable children to travel from eight rural communities to attend pre-school facilities. Yet another example of rural community transport fund money being put to good use.'
The minister was interested to see how the Shetland Isles have grasped the new developments in the provision of liquified petroleum gas. She visited Brae Petrol Station, one of two Shetland stations that have converted their forecourts to accommodate LPG with executive grant funding.
And as Ms Boyack viewed the developments at Holmsgarth Pier that are currently underway in advance of the NorthLink ferry services commencing in October next year the minister said:
'For the many people who rely on Shetland's ferry services, NorthLink's promise of three new vessels, more frequent sailings, shorter journey times and cheaper fares is welcome news. It demonstrates the Scottish executive's commitment to maintaining lifeline services to the islands and their communities and is an example of the Executive securing a good deal for the consumer. I also hope it will help boost tourism opportunities as the new ferries arrive next year.'
The six projects in Shetland to receive rural community grant scheme funding are: Burra and Trondra Minibus Association, Disability Shetland, Firth and Mossbank Enterprise, Sandwick Youth and Community Centre, Fetlar Community Association and the Association of Shetland Playgroups. These groups have received funding totalling almost£81,000.
Sandwick Youth and Community Centre (SYCC) is a voluntary organisation established in 1987. Young people from the Sandwick Junior High School catchment can meet in the Centre on Friday evenings. The Centre was awarded grant of 1,877 over 2 years (2000-01 and 2002-03) under the Rural Community Transport Group Scheme to contract a commercial operator to provide evening transport for children and young people from youth and community centres to homes in remote rural areas.
The organisation applied to the first tranche of the Rural Community Transport Grant Scheme (RCTGS) in 2000-2001 for funding to contract a local commercial operator to provide evening transport from Cunningsburgh to the Centre and return. This would ensure that all young people would be able to reach the Centre safely and have equal opportunities to its resources.
Association of Shetland Playgroups was awarded a grant of£28,049 over two years (2001 - 2003) under the Rural Community Transport Grant Scheme.