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The work of the community in Barra and Vatersay in beginning to move towards achieving carbon neutrality was highlighted in a Scottish Parliament debate yesterday Thursday afternoon (January 19) by SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan..

The linked islands of Barra and Vatersay form one of the six island communities identified by the Scottish Government to participate in their Carbon Neutral Islands Project.

The project, which will also contain educational and international strands, aims to balance local greenhouse gas emissions with carbon sinks to achieve carbon neutrality on all six island communities by 2040 – five years ahead of the target for Scotland as a whole.

In his speech, the isles’ MSP remarked upon the vast renewable energy potential of the Western Isles, and the progress already being made across the islands by businesses and community organisations in becoming more sustainable, noting the importance of Scottish Government funding so far in facilitating many of these projects.

Allan also stressed that it is islanders themselves who hold the key to this project’s success, saying: “Setting out to achieve carbon neutrality in Barra and Vatersay is, from the outset, going to mean a community-led initiative, with the Carbon Neutral Islands’ anchor organisation on the island, Voluntary Action Barra and Vatersay, working closely with other community groups, businesses and island residents to fully explore their islands’ potential. 

“Because, of course, islanders are already the experts on their own local communities. The journey to decarbonisation must be led by them, in order to ensure that local knowledge shapes local solutions.”

On 30 November 2022, a project showcase was held in Castlebay, which was an opportunity for the community to learn more about the Carbon Neutral Islands project from members of the Scottish Government’s Islands Team and Community Energy Scotland.

A carbon audit is now underway in Barra and Vatersay to provide the community with a clear account of its greenhouse gas emissions, after which a local climate change action plan will be created.