SCOTTISH communities affected by severe weather are to be helped by £12 million of new funding, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The cash includes a £1,500 grant for every household, business premises or charity directly affected by flood water, and a £5m fund for councils to replace damaged infrastructure.
The First Minister unveiled the funding boost as she visited the flood-hit North-east. Opposition politicians welcomed the announcement, although some complained that financial help had arrived too slowly.
The north-east of the country is the latest area to be battered by heavy rain, causing severe disruption to travel, the evacuation of homes in some parts of Aberdeenshire and two severe flood warnings for Inverurie and Kintore.
It follows flooding across other parts of the country, including Tayside and the Borders, as a result of Storm Frank.
The funding is in addition to the £4m announced by the Deputy First Minister in his budget statement, bringing the total package of support for those affected by the adverse weather to more than £16m.
Sturgeon has been under pressure from opposition parties to spell out what extra funding will be allocated to flood relief. An extra £5.8m will be made available to support households and business properties.
Councils which have suffered the most damage as a result of the flooding have been allocated a share of the fund, but people in any part of Scotland who have suffered flood damage can apply for a grant.
In addition to flood relief support, businesses whose ability to trade has been severely affected by flooding will be able to apply for an extra grant of £3,000 funded by the Scottish Government and administered by their local authority.
Additional funding of up to £5m will be made available to councils to replace infrastructure severely damaged by flood waters, including support for the reinstatement of the A93 link between Ballater and Braemar.
An Agricultural Floodbank Restoration Grant Scheme of up to £1m will also be made available to farmers to restore damaged floodbanks, and discussions will continue next week with the industry on how the government can support them through severe weather.
Sturgeon said: “In the face of devastation Scotland’s communities have rallied together and shown real strength.”
Alison McInnes, the North- east-based Lib Dem MSP, said: “Here in the North-east local agencies have faced a prolonged battle against the rising water and staff and residents are exhausted. I do worry we haven’t seen the last of the bad weather but everyone has rallied together to support one another and the examples of community spirit have been heartening to see at such a difficult time.
“Lessons need to be learnt on what’s happened in Scotland since the start of 2016 because I still think this response took place at a snail’s pace. The Scottish Government cannot keep forgetting that its responsibility is to the whole of Scotland, not just the Central Belt.”