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Caithness News Bulletins November 2003

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Ross-shire Voluntary Action (RVA) is the first organisation in the Highlands to benefit under the new Community Enterprise Loan Fund.  Launched earlier this year by Highland Opportunity Limited (HOL), the Fund offers a comprehensive package of business advice, access to loan finance and aftercare support to serve the development needs of the growing voluntary sector in Highland.

Highland Councillor Sandy Park, Chairman of the Council’s enterprise trust company, Highland Opportunity Limited (HOL) said:  “I am delighted that RVA has been successful in securing loan assistance.  This is an excellent case study for other entrepreneurial community enterprises not only in Ross & Cromarty but also throughout the Highlands.  The introduction of the Community Enterprise Loan Fund provides a valuable complementary service to the range of products presently available to the sector to capitalise on their economic value.”

RVA, a Council for Voluntary Service, was formed in 1971 to support the activities of voluntary sector organisations in Ross & Cromarty.  Securing a loan of £12,000 towards the renovation costs of new premises, RVA is now firmly on its way to realising its ambition to establish a Voluntary Sector Resource centre.  The centre will provide accessible and affordable office accommodation and centralised service support to local voluntary groups.  Alan Gartshore, Secretary of RVA said: “After securing grant assistance from a range of sources, combined with RVA’s own funds, there was still a shortfall in funding to cover the full cost of the project.  Assistance from the Community Enterprise Loan Fund was instrumental in enabling the project to proceed and remain viable.”

Following his appointment as Business Advisor for the new fund, Cecil Taylor has been travelling throughout the Highlands to raise awareness and enlist the support of key agencies in promoting this facility within local communities.  Commenting on his role, Cecil said: “I have been impressed by the level of commitment and enthusiasm I have experienced so far when speaking to community enterprises about their development plans.  It is a rewarding task to provide a key piece of the jigsaw to empower communities to realise their potential.  I am confident that, since we have now signed off our first loan, the message will spread to other community organisations to consider loan finance as an option within their future plans.  Aside from benefiting directly from the fund, RVA, by the very nature of its operation, will now feel confident in promoting this facility to the extensive range of organisations which currently use its services.” 

Finance for the Loan Fund has been provided by The Highland Council, Social Investment Scotland and the European Regional Development Fund to lead Scotland in having a unique local community development financial institution.  Community businesses, which demonstrate community benefit from their activities and can generate an income stream to repay a loan, could benefit from loan assistance ranging from £5,000 - £50,000 under the fund.  Typically, rural lifeline services, business spin-offs from community land purchases, community centres, care groups, cultural and heritage societies and local charitable trusts organisations could apply for funding to improve property, buy equipment, or increase working capital. 

To find out more about the fund, a loan finance event will be held at The Netley Centre (Highland Hospice) on Tuesday 9 December – “Bridging the Gap” will provide an opportunity for lenders and social economy organisations to work together for community benefit.  The event will include the launch of Social Investment Scotland’s new guide to using loans for community initiatives, free copies of which will be available.  To reserve a place contact Jane Gair at HOL on 01463 228342, further details about the fund are available by viewing the website at www.highland-opportunity.com.  

Highland Opportunity Limited is the Enterprise Trust for the Highlands providing discretionary financial assistance, professional business support, youth enterprise services and European consultancy to small and medium-sized enterprises.

The company has been providing financial assistance to Highland businesses since 1986 and has a net asset value of more than £1.1m.


The objects for which the company was established are: -

To stimulate economic activity in the Highlands by helping to protect and expand existing employment and to create new employment within the region.

To identify prospective industrial entrepreneurs and community groups to develop business ventures.

To provide or assist in the provision of finance to persons carrying on or interested to carry on venture and small business projects located or intended to locate in the Highlands.

The Enterprise Trust’s aim is to encourage employment in the Highlands by fostering businesses and community enterprises and in particular: -

  • to encourage local start-up and development.
  • to support young entrepreneurs.
  • to make effective connections with the European Community.
  • to promote community enterprise.

To achieve this aim, Highland Opportunity Limited (with The Caithness Fund) provides low interest loans to businesses, holds the agency for the Prince’ s Scottish Youth Business Trust, hosts the European Info Centre in Inverness and is working with Social Investment Scotland on the Community Enterprise Loan Fund.