What will follow as LEADER project comes to an end?

The Dumfries and Galloway LEADER project, which has supported hundreds of community, business and farming initiatives with investment totalling £20 million, has ended after more than 20 years.

Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 11:22 am
Local action group members are concerned about what will follow the successful Leader programme.

It supported over 200 projects and worked with around 100 groups, organisations and businesses.

Projects supported in recent years included:

Day of the Region – £198,000 invested in supporting community celebrations and capacity building in Newton Stewart, Annan, Kirkconnel and Kelloholm, Sanquhar, Locharbriggs, Dundrennan, Kelton, Lochside and Lincluden, Galloway Cricket Club and D&G LGBT+.

Kirkcudbright Galleries – £125,000 invested in the education programme to support the opening of the new galleries.

D&G Sensory Project – £57,000 invested in an outreach programme to support sensory impaired people across the region, delivered by Visibility).

Many different part of the region have also been supported over the past 20 years including £160,000 of support for cultural projects in Wigtown and £500,000 for community assets and capacity building in Glenkens.

LEADER, which operated in several parts of the country, was largely funded by the European Union and has come to an end due to Brexit.

Without a replacement scheme it is feared that the region’s efforts to regenerate and rebuild after the pandemic will suffer.

Cathy Agnew, member of the Local Action Group and founding chairman of Glenkens Community and Arts Trust, said: “Our rural communities are constantly being encouraged to do more for themselves but they face ever increasing challenges with ever decreasing resources.

“What LEADER proved, time after time, is that these communities are full of incredibly creative people with innovative ideas and lots of determination but they need support, guidance and investment to get things going.

“That’s exactly what LEADER did and the investments it made were repaid many times over through the success of the projects they assisted, as was seen in the Glenkens.

"The loss of LEADER could have a really significant impact unless an alternative is put in place very soon – our communities need support and investment right away if they are going to rebuild and thrive.”

LEADER made grants on a match funding basis, so its offers were used to raise the same amount again from other sources. As a result its initial £20 million resulted in £40 million of additional investment in Dumfries and Galloway.

Adrian Turpin, artistic director of Wigtown Book Festival, said: “LEADER has had a tremendous impact on the region over the last 20 years.

“It has played a vital role in Wigtown and in the development of events like the book festival, which now generates millions of pounds a year that is ploughed back into the local economy. And this is a story that’s repeated all across Dumfries and Galloway.

“There is an immediate and urgent need for a replacement to be created.”

Some of the groups that have benefited are included in a short video about the legacy of Dumfries & Galloway LEADER at https://www.dgleader.co.uk/documents/leader-documents.