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Innovation focus at Island Group

Published: 27 Nov 2015 12:30

Eleventh meeting of the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group.

Islands Minister Derek Mackay has heard about plans to establish a local Island Innovation Zone for Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides.

As part of the 11th meeting of the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group, Island Council leaders presented proposals to establish a Local Island Innovation Zone with new and enhanced powers to encourage new opportunities for development and investment in the islands through providing incentives that help to offset the additional costs of operating from the islands. The meeting was also provided with an update on a study commissioned at the July meeting of the group on the Economic Opportunities of Renewables Electricity for Island Communities.

The meeting chaired yesterday by Islands Minister Derek Mackay, included Leaders and Chief Executives of the three Island Councils, as well as the Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment Marco Biagi.

The Working Group is part of the Scottish Government's commitment to the principle of local decision making, and the work we are taking forward with our island communities as part of the wider empowerment agenda.

Over the last year the Working Group has discussed issues covering the economic opportunities of renewable electricity for island communities and digital connectivity, to better island transport networks and powers over the Crown Estate.

Islands Minister Derek Mackay said:

"The Scottish Government's Economic Strategy has placed innovation at the heart of its plan for long-term, sustainable economic growth. As part of the Empowering Scotland's Island Communities' prospectus, we gave a clear commitment to consider any proposals brought forward by the Island Councils to establish Island Innovation Zones which provide a clear focus on specific opportunities available to our island communities, and this remains the case today.

"Overall, I welcome the work done to date by the councils to identify specific sources of potential competitive advantage and jobs growth as well as the aim of a potential Innovation Zone.

"In determining the strategic imperatives of any zone, a thorough assessment of genuine strengths and real potential is crucial. I have, therefore, asked that the councils engage with Highlands and Islands Enterprise in order to set out in further detail the potential of any such zone.

"Discussions at yesterday's meeting also highlighted the importance of the current islands consultation which I launched at the end of September. This seeks views on a range of issues including the possibility of the devolution of additional powers, stronger representation and the creation of a National Islands Plan. The consultation will close on 23rd December and therefore I would encourage everyone with an interest in our islands to have a look at the consultation, as it is an ideal opportunity to influence what a future Island Bill might look like."

Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Cllr Angus Campbell, speaking on behalf the Our Islands Our Future campaign, said:

"Island Innovation Zones (IIZ) would provide a clear focus on the specific opportunities available in each Island Area and would enable key partners to coordinate and tailor their support to best meet the needs of the business and investment with greatest potential for expanding in the interests of the Island communities. Our aim is to secure Islands Innovation Zone designations with new and enhanced economic development, planning and other measures for addressing the Islands' employment, development, investment and demographic needs.

"There is an opportunity for communities in the islands to make their views known on this and other Island issues through the Islands Bill consultation and I would urge all interested parties to take part in the consultation which can be accessed through the Islands Councils' websites or the Scottish Government's website."