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15th March 2008

The Highlands will receive #6 million to grow local economies, improve rural facilities and conserve the environment, Richard Lochhead announced today.

Some sixteen Local Action Groups across Scotland will share in the first round of funding allocated under the 57.7 million LEADER programme designed to empower communities at the grass-roots level.

The 57.7 million, a joint allocation by the Scottish Government and European Union, will be matched at a local level by public and private funds - potentially doubling the figure.

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment said: "This is a massive investment in rural Scotland which will see decisions taken in local areas on how best to support a wide range of grass-roots community projects.

"The fact that all funding decisions are to be taken locally will greatly empower community decision-making and ensure only those projects which will make a real difference to rural Scotland will be selected.

"I would like to encourage rural communities in the Highlands to seize the opportunities presented by this funding and take control of their own future development."

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