With the presentation of a £200,000 cheque to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig College in Skye, the Highland Fund marked a significant change in direction.

Founded 55 years ago to help crofters and fishermen, and to support start-up businesses in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, the Highland Fund provided low interest loans to those seeking help when other traditional routes to finance were unavailable.

At the time, the concept of the Highland Fund was unheard of as it was prepared to lend money to applicants who were able to submit two character references whereas banks and other lending institutions were looking for collateral.

Since its inception in 1953, the Highland Fund has lent more than £2 million to crofters, fishermen and small businesses – and every loan has been repaid!

However, with the growth of grants and loans now available from resources based locally and nationally, as well as from the European Union, the Highland Fund decided to curtail its loan activity and seek new development opportunities.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is unique. It is the only college in the world where all higher education provision and the running of the College is conducted entirely in Scottish Gaelic.

Founded in 1973 in Skye, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig provides a centre of excellence for the development and enhancement of the Gaelic language, culture and heritage. It provides educational, training and research opportunities through the medium of Scottish Gaelic and involves individuals, communities and businesses, encouraging them to contribute to social, cultural and economic development.

In a bid to further expand its activities the College sought to institute a development trust by which it could provide more bursaries and support additional students at the College. This ambitious plan therefore required significant contributions to build up the initial fund, the interest from which would go towards student support.

After application to the Highland Fund, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig was invited, together with other potential recipients, to submit proposals for consideration. An impressive submission and presentation won the day for this unique Gaelic College.

And in honour of this first major contribution, the College development trust will name an endowment fund The Highland Fund.

Speaking at the presentation, Professor Norman Gillies said: “To achieve Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s ambition, the development trust needed a sizeable donation to allow it to be able to commence work quickly and also to demonstrate to other potential contributors the worth of this scheme.”

Handing over the cheque, Murdo Morrison, Chairman of the Highland Fund, said: “This contribution is only the start. Over the course of the next year, we plan to encourage others to make financial donations while making a further contribution ourselves.”

“Although this may seem a change in direction from our original aims, we regard it as being in alignment with the Highland Fund’s original ideals – helping people to help themselves - a trait which has stood Scots in good stead as they have spread their skills and expertise at home and worldwide over the years. We do hope other organisations and individuals will add their financial support to this wonderful idea.”

“This money is being presented along with the good wishes of the Council members of the Fund and our hope and confidence that Sabhal Mòr Ostaig will act as a beacon for the economic future of the Highlands and Islands.”