Published: Saturday 9th January 2016 by The News Editor
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 £5 million fund for councils to replace damaged infrastructure.
The First Minister unveiled the funding boost as she visited the flood-hit north-east.
The area has been 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 £4 million 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 £16 million.
Ms Sturgeon has been under pressure from opposition parties to spell out what extra funding will be allocated to flood relief.
An extra £5.8 million 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 £5 million will be made available to councils to replace infrastructure severely damaged by flood waters, including support for the reinstatement of the A93 between Ballater and Braemar.
An Agricultural Floodbank Restoration Grant Scheme of up to £1 million 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.
Ms Sturgeon said: “In the face of devastation Scotland’s communities have rallied together and shown real strength. I have met with some local business owners who have made a real difference by offering vital support and once again I am amazed by the determination and dedication of all of our emergency services who are working around the clock to save homes and livelihoods.
“We do not yet have confirmation of consequentials coming from UK Government flood funds – however, now that the picture of those who need support is clearer, the Scottish Government is acting now to make sure that the people who need help get it.”
Aberdeenshire Council has been given a £2 million share of the funding, while Aberdeen City Council has been allocated £500,000.
Dozens of homes were evacuated in Inverurie, Port Elphinstone and Ellon in the region as the swollen River Don sent flood waters racing down the streets on Thursday night and Friday morning.
Water also poured from the River Ythan, prompting the emergency services to mount an operation to rescue residents.
The Donside area, Keith, Huntly, Turriff, Kintore and parts of Aberdeen were also affected by the flooding.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) said it expects river levels to fall gradually, b ut a spokesman warned of the possibility of “residual impacts” in areas such as Kintore and Inverurie.
Ms Sturgeon, who was joined by north east MP Alex Salmond at the Inverurie Academy rest centre, said the emotional impact of the flooding was impossible to quantify.
She said: “I have spoken to people here and in Newton Stewart who have had their homes and businesses flooded and the devastation is heartbreaking.
“We want to help as much as we can but there’s nothing you can say to someone to take away the pain of losing their personal possessions or seeing their homes flooded.
“That’s the bit of this that is always going to be impossible to quantify.
“On the other side, the community spirit that we have seen has been heartwarming and quite incredible.”
Ms Sturgeon again paid tribute to the work of the emergency services including police and fire crews.
Officers were on the streets of Inverurie helping people remove flood-damaged furniture, electricals, books and other items from their homes as the clear-up continues.
The First Minister spoke to residents in Canal Crescent and Ritchie Row, where homes suffered when the River Don topped its banks on Thursday night.
Some people were pumping out water while others used shovels and brushes to try to get rid of the remaining flood water.
Residents were throwing their damaged belongings in skips and electrical engineers were out tending to a sub station.
Ms Sturgeon entered several homes and told residents she was sorry to be meeting them under such circumstances, while wishing them the best as they tried to get their properties back to normal.
She said: “Our emergency services, police, fire, councils, utility companies, transport operators – everybody has pulled together.
“You can’t exaggerate the devastation, but it has also brought out the best in communities as they respond.”
Mr Salmond, MP for Gordon, said: “The north east of Scotland has been sorely tested over the last week and I think it has passed with flying colours in terms of the community spirit and people looking to help their fellow citizens in distress.
“In all of the people’s houses I’ve been in today, they have had nothing but praise for the council workers, the police and the fire service who performed exceptionally well.
“But I think we should also emphasise the community spirit.
“The reaction of people has been extraordinary – right down to the 20 workers from Asda with their disinfectant, looking to help people clean up.”
Scottish Labour’s environmental justice spokeswoman Sarah Boyack renewed calls for a review of flood defence infrastructure.
She said: “It is vital that those affected receive this money as soon as possible. Families and local businesses can’t wait for months for this support to actually arrive.
“Questions also need to be asked about how local authorities are expected to shoulder the burden for flood defences when the SNP plan to slash council budgets across the whole of Scotland.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes , who lives in Ellon, one of the town’s badly hit by flooding, said: “I’m pleased the First Minister has finally given us details of how the Scottish Government plans to help home owners, business owners and farmers affected by the recent flooding get back on track.
“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.”
Published: Saturday 9th January 2016 by The News Editor