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Wind powered ‘dividend vouchers’ to pump prime Caithness economy

A survey of Caithness businesses has shown support for a voucher scheme proposed by renewables developer Eurowind that could inject over £80k of wind powered benefit into the local economy every year for 25 years.

Eurowind has been working closely with Caithness Chamber of Commerce and sought the opinions of local residents to devise a scheme which would see householders in communities surrounding the proposed Lyth Wind Farm receive a dividend each year in the form of vouchers drawn from the wind farm's operating profits.

Under the proposal, residents receiving vouchers could spend them in participating shops and businesses across Caithness. Businesses would then be able to exchange the vouchers for their monetary value. Caithness Chamber of Commerce is seen as an ideal partner to run the scheme, given their knowledge of local businesses.

With almost 50% of Scottish homes now considered to be in "fuel poverty" and many properties in the Highlands not on mains gas, Eurowind feel this scheme could help residents faced with rising fuel costs. The vouchers could also be used to pay for any other local goods or services whose providers had signed up to the scheme.

A survey about the proposals conducted by Caithness Chamber of Commerce with local businesses, found the majority believed the scheme would increase their trade. There was a preference shown for a scheme based on vouchers rather than a card based system, and for the scheme to be opened up to businesses across Caithness, not just those closest to Lyth Wind Farm.

Ian Lindsay Director of Eurowind said, "We think this is the first ever proposal to use wind farm profits to pump prime a local economy in a way that benefits both individuals and local business. Throughout the last three years we have worked in Caithness, it's been clear that local people want to see a direct benefit coming from the Lyth Wind Farm, but in a way that also benefits the area as a whole. I believe the ongoing health of a community depends on it's businesses and the jobs they provide, as much as it's residents. This unique way of sharing a financial dividend between a community and it's commerce benefits everyone directly. We are intending to adopt the voucher scheme as part of a package of community benefits from the wind farm we are developing, including support for college jobs-training."

Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce said, "We welcome Eurowind’s approach to a potential community benefit model which will benefit local businesses. Thriving communities need sustainable businesses, they are not mutually exclusive.  The mix of businesses which were surveyed showed they were open to engaging in such a scheme."