An independent panel has been set up to look into applications and judge which projects will be eligible for funding from the £3m Beatrice Partnership Fund.

The Beatrice Partnership Fund, which was launched in December 2016 and is associated with the Beatrice offshore wind farm currently under construction in the Moray Firth, is part of a wider package of benefits being offered by Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Limited (BOWL), the joint venture partnership behind the wind farm.

The expert panel will meet for the first time in Inverness at the end of March to make decisions on the first round of applications. The panel will be chaired by Fraser Grieve from the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI). The fund will operate over five years with £2m available for Caithness and Sutherland and £1m available for Moray.

The panel consists of:

David Shearer – Fund Co-ordinator at the Caithness and North Sutherland Fund

Fraser Grieve – Highlands and Islands Regional Director, Scottish Council for Development & Industry

Professor James Hunter – Emeritus Professor of History at the University of the Highlands and Islands and former Chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Sarah Medcraf – Chief Executive of Moray Chamber of Commerce

Morven Smith – Head of Community Investment, SSE

Fraser Grieve said: “This is a great opportunity to make a difference and I’m delighted to have been asked to chair the panel. Each panel member brings a wealth of experience from their particular area of expertise and I’m really looking forward to working with them.

“The fund aims to support larger projects that are potentially transformational in nature with particular focus on jobs and skills; community resilience; and enhancing the environment. I’m in no doubt that we will have some difficult decisions to make but we have a responsibility to ensure that the funds are put to good use to support projects that make a real difference to communities.”

The fund is open to community groups, charities and non-profit-making organisations from the east coast communities in Caithness and Sutherland, and the coastal communities in Moray. It will support projects which promote skills development, community energy developments or improve the built and natural environment.