Scottish government to urgently consider emergency funding requests from two councils after ‘perfect storm’

Richard Lochhead surveys the damage in Fraserburgh Harbour
Richard Lochhead surveys the damage in Fraserburgh Harbour
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SCOTTISH Government Ministers are to urgently consider requests for emergency funding for two of the council areas hardest hit by the weekend’s devastating storm surge.

• Moray and Aberdeenshire councils have made representations to government to activate Bellwin Scheme to help meet repair costs

• Finance Secretary John Swinney is to consider ‘all eligible expenditure’ under the terms of the Scheme

• ‘We stand ready to provide assistance’ said Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead

Both Aberdeenshire Council and Moray Council have already made representations to the Government to activate the Bellwin Scheme to help meet the costs of repairing the damage caused in costal communities by Saturday’s “perfect storm.”

The Bellwin Scheme is a discretionary scheme to provide financial assistance to councils faced with an undue financial burden as a result of large-scale emergencies.

A Government spokesman said: “Finance Secretary John Swinney will consider all eligible expenditure under the terms of the Bellwin Scheme when formal claims have been received from the councils.”

Mr Swinney said: “It is vital that nothing should deter local authorities from moving quickly to recovery and repair of the extensive damage caused by this weekend’s storms. That is why I have today agreed to activate the Bellwin scheme which provides support to affected councils to assist with immediate and unforeseen costs of dealing with the aftermath of the severe weather.

“We look forward to working with those councils who apply to the scheme to ensure that resources are made available as appropriate.”

Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary, who spent Monday viewing the damage caused in the North east ports of Lossiemouth, Peterhead and Fraserburgh, said today: “The extreme storms which hit the east of Scotland over the weekend were truly exceptional and left a trail of debris and damage, some of it significant. As the full impact on local communities continues to be assessed, we stand ready to provide urgent assistance and the Scottish Government will consider applications from local authorities for emergency funding through the Bellwin Scheme.”

He added: “Yesterday I saw first hand the magnitude of the damage and met with many involved in the emergency response. As well as major ports, small harbours and vital coastal defences that local communities rely on have been hit by the storms.

“With the clean up work ongoing, I commend everyone for their hard work and assure them that the Government is committed to helping communities get back on their feet as quickly as possible.”

eanwhile Aberdeenshire Council has announced that the massive clear up at Stonehaven, the coastal community which suffered some of the worst flooding, had allowed almost all the affected businesses in the town to reopen.

Willie Munro, the area manager for Kincardine and Mearns, said: “It is heartening to see how quickly the debris has been cleared away from Stonehaven’s streets.

“It has been a major task to clear up the debris in Stonehaven, but one which has been made easier with the support and aid of the local community.”

He added: “By the end of this week we should have a clearer picture of the cost of damage to council property. It will take much longer to determine the overall cost of damage to the town itself.

“We will do everything we can to provide assistance to people affected by the flooding, and have made an application to the Scottish Government’s Bellwin Scheme for financial assistance in the aftermath of the storm.”

A council spokeswoman added: “Damage to the harbour appears to be less extensive than first thought, with superficial damage to the sandstone wall coping.

“The Maritime Rescue Institute in Stonehaven, which provides a vital lifeboat service along the North east coast, was badly affected by the storm.

“The MRI lifeboats were unable to respond to emergency callouts in the immediate aftermath of the storm, but after two days work, one lifeboat is now operational and back on station.”