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Empowering our islands

Published: 14 Mar 2016 12:00

High level of support for island-proofing policy.

The needs of island communities should be considered in all government legislation according to a report published this morning.

Almost 200 responses were submitted to the consultation on Provisions for a Future Islands Bill, with many stating a 'one size fits all' approach to legislation, policy and services does not take the unique requirements of life on Scotland's islands into consideration.

Independent analysis of the responses show a high level of support (91%) for the Scottish Government to consider placing the concept of island-proofing in legislation through the proposed Islands Bill.

There was a similarly high level of support (98%) to ensure public bodies island-proof their work.

Some of the suggested benefits of island-proofing include: increased joint working; equality; greater understanding of island issues and better solutions. It was also suggested it could bring: more sustainability; greater accountability of authorities; empowerment of communities; consistency with European provision; more efficient use of resources; and wider benefits to the Scottish and UK economies.

The report also sets out the views expressed on other key questions including: the possibility of further Empowering of Island Communities; a future national Islands Plan; Statutory Protection for the Na h-Eileanan an lar Scottish Parliamentary constituency boundary; and island councillor representation.

This morning also saw the publication of a progress report from the Island Area Ministerial Working Group which set out the work taking place across Government in partnership with agencies and local councils to support and sustain our island communities, including:

  • The creation of a dedicated Islands Ministerial post
  • Consultation on Provisions for a Future Islands Bill
  • Discussions on a proposed 'Islands Deal'
  • The establishment of the Crofting Stakeholder Forum
  • Commitment to Scotland's first Rural Parliament
  • A new year three year £25m Rural Housing Fund
  • Establishing the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force
  • Ferry fare freeze and the complete roll out of the Road Equivalent Tariff on the Clyde & Hebrides network
  • Extension of the Air Discount Scheme to 2019, and increase of discount from 40% to 50%;
  • Investing over £410 million through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband scheme with a target of 95% of Scottish premises by 2017
  • Discussions on the possibility of a future pilot of the management of the Crown Estate, post devolution

Speaking from Arran where he was meeting with local community representatives and delegates attending the Cold Water Islands Tourism conference the Islands Minister Derek Mackay said:

"Our islands make a significant contribution, both from a cultural and economic perspective to Scotland, but they do face specific challenges around their geographic remoteness, declining populations, transport and digital connectivity, and supporting sustainable economic growth.

"The consultation findings will help inform the future development of a draft Islands Bill. Such a Bill will be a key way of drawing together the work of the Ministerial Group, and channelling our focus to ensuring we provide real change for all our island communities.

"This Government has placed the needs and aspirations of our island communities at the very centre of our empowerment agenda. We have started a very positive journey, and made good progress, however there is more to do.

"The update report from the Island Ministerial Group illustrates the work that the Scottish Government, its agencies and the Island Councils are taking forward in partnership across key areas to help support and sustain all of Scotland's 93 island communities.

"As Scotland's first dedicated Islands Minister I am proud of what we have achieved together since the launch of the Our Islands: Our Future campaign and the publication of the Empowering Scotland's Island Communities prospectus but this work is not finished. This journey will continue and will lead to the delivery of lasting benefits for generations to come."

Notes to editors

For the Consultation on Provisions for a Future Islands Bill: Analysis of Responses visit: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/03/4180

For Empowering Scotland's Island Communities: A Progress Update - March 2016 visit: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/03/1090