Promoting Islands Voice
In November 2014 the post of Minister for Transport and Islands was created within the Scottish Government fulfilling the commitment in the Empowering Scotland's Island Communities prospectus. The post provides a clear focus for Island issues and a voice for all 93 of Scotland's island communities within the Government.
Islands Bill Consultation
As part of her first Programme for Government in November 2014 the First Minister confirmed that the Government would consult on further measures that might be included in a future Islands Bill. On the 30 September 2015 the Scottish Government published its consultation which sought the views of island communities and other key stakeholders on a range of issues including the concept of 'island-proofing'; devolution of further powers; the possibility of 'A National Islands Plan'; statutory protection for the Na-h-Eileanan an lar Scottish parliamentary constituency boundary; and future Councillor representation within island communities.
A total of 192 responses were received to the consultation and the independent analysis of those responses has now been published. A summary of the key emerging themes from the consultation can be found later in this document.
Parliamentary constituency Protection for Na-h-Eileanan an lar
In the 2014 Islands prospectus the Scottish Government committed to providing statutory protection to Na-h-Eileanan an lar constituency matching the protection afforded to the parliamentary constituencies of Orkney and Shetland under the 1998 Scotland Act. This commitment can now be delivered once the powers to do so are transferred to the Scottish Parliament under the 2016 Scotland Act.
The Scottish Government will continue to consult with the Island Councils and communities on EU policies and legislative proposals which impact on the islands and their communities. The views of the Island Councils and communities will be taken into account in developing the Scottish Government's position and the steps we take to influence the UK Government and the EU institutions. Support and advice is also available from Government officials both in Edinburgh and Brussels should our Island Councils or communities require it.
The Scottish Government's State Aid advisers covering all policy areas continue to work with the Island Councils to provide State Aid advice and offer training. By being able to access such expertise, especially in the policy areas of importance to the islands, the Councils are better able to develop measures to assist their economies in compliance with State Aid rules. For schemes that require notification to the Commission the Scottish Government can deploy its expertise and resources in its Brussels office to assist the Island Councils.
Through the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group the three wholly Island Councils are seeking to take forward a regional 'Deal' for their Islands which would explore ways of enhancing local democracy and achieving the full economic potential of their communities. The Island Councils are seeking to create a differentiated approach that delivers a package of measures, tailored to the individual and unique needs of their three areas, recognising their history as unitary Councils with a proven commitment to community leadership and engagement. Scottish Government Ministers have committed to ongoing dialogue and assistance with the Island Councils, as appropriate, as they develop their proposals, alongside their engagement with other public sector partners and the UK Government.