Nicola Sturgeon welcomes £200m boost to rural economy

Nicola Sturgeon welcomes £200m boost to rural economy

First minister Nicola Sturgeon says ensuring a strong rural economy is crucial to Scotland's success.

Investment of up to £200m to support hundreds of jobs in the rural economy was welcomed by the first minister on Tuesday.

The announcement comes as Nicola Sturgeon made a series of visits in the Highlands to see how innovation and investment is strengthening Scotland's rural economy.

Sturgeon visited Ross-Shire Engineering in Muir of Ord, who have announced they will use the funding to create new jobs and secure existing positions.

The company has secured potential funding of up to £200m over the next five years from Scottish Water's capital and operational delivery framework projects to supply equipment to ensure high quality drinking water across the country.

The investment has already resulted in over 100 new jobs in 2016 and provided additional job security to the existing 273 staff members.

The funding has also enabled the expansion of its apprenticeship programme, doubling its number of vacancies for apprentices and graduates over the next five years.

Sturgeon said: "Ensuring a strong rural economy is crucial to Scotland's success.

"This funding Ross-Shire Engineering has secured provides a hugely welcome boost in providing skilled jobs and investment across the Highlands, as well as providing vital utility services to Scotland's homes and businesses.

"In particular, I am delighted they will be investing in their already strong apprenticeship job programme, providing vital training and employment to young people living in the Highlands in a competitive jobs market.

"Last week when I set out my Programme for Government I promised to protect Scotland's interests, particularly our economic interests, in the wake of the EU referendum.

"Driving sustainable economic growth is at the heart of that, and I am committed to ensuring this Government does all it can to ensure Scotland's rural economy remains prosperous for future generations."

Douglas Millican, chief executive of Scottish Water said: "I am delighted that the work we have given Ross-shire Engineering has enabled them to create these jobs and apprenticeships.

"Although our priority is to provide clear, fresh water to our customers and safely return waste water to the environment we also seek to support Scottish companies and Scottish jobs whenever we can.

"The success of Ross-shire Engineering is a great example of the role Scottish Water and its partners can play in supporting Scotland's economic growth".