A CAMPAIGN to put the Isle of Skye on the global gourmet map by promoting the origins of rare cuts of local meats is under threat amid fears over securing vital European funding following Brexit.

Moves to create Skye’s first abattoir in a generation have been given the green light by planners fuelling claims that badging locally-reared produce as Isle of Skye could transform the island into an international “foodie destination”.

Once built, the micro-facility on Portree would allow small-batch Isle of Skye-labelled lamb, beef and pork from rare and native breeds reared on the island to be identified on menus and marketed worldwide for the first time. This includes Hebridean lamb, Soay mutton and Highland beef.

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Crofters, farmers and chefs have been campaigning for decades to develop the island’s own abattoir as part of moves to market the produce internationally.

Now, however, the UK’s plans to leave the European Union have put in doubt vital EU funding for the £1.5 million project.

European funding through the Scottish rural development programme is capped at 40 per cent of the total cost, and campaigners say it will now have to be applied for before Article 50 is triggered next March and European-funded grant schemes are closed.

As a result of this new deadline, they now face the unwelcome pressure of raising the substantial balance – some £750,000 – through private benefactors and charitable trusts before March, as the money must be either promised or in place before the EU application is made.

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Donald Murdie, a crofter near Dunvegan Head who tends a flock of Hebridean sheep and is a member of the campaigning Skye and Lochalsh Meat Supply Group, said: “This micro-abattoir would be good for animal welfare because it would put an end to the 140-mile round trip to the existing abattoir in Dingwall, which has been in place since the old Skye abattoir closed in the early 1990s.

“It could really put Skye on the global gourmet map and make it a foodie destination, because it would mean locally-reared animals can be finished, killed, processed and packaged on the island, meaning it can be labelled as Isle of Skye.

“This is really important in an age where provenance means so much to consumers worldwide. For them to know their high welfare beef or lamb comes in small quantities from the beautiful island of Skye and its surrounding areas is priceless and could really build our rural economy.”

The Brexit vote may have hampered the EU funding bid.

Campaigners hope to raise seven per cent through local donations, events and a crowdfunding appeal.

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Ian Blackford, MSP for Skye and Lochaber, said: “It breaks my heart that the top-quality product of our crofters and farmers is going to the wider supply chain and that they are not able to benefit from it. The abattoir on Skye would be a great opportunity to address that by allowing them to assure consumers their meat is from Skye and Lochalsh.”

Richard Lochhead, the former cabinet secretary for rural affairs, said: “All the hard work and effort expended in putting together these often complex funding applications can’t be allowed to come to nothing. It must not allow new time constraints to jeopardise vital projects like these.”

But chef Shirley Spear, who co-founded the Three Chimneys Restaurant 32 years ago and chairs the Scottish Food Commission, said all was not lost.

“I’m very optimistic that we will hit our target because we have had so much fantastic support.”