Scottish Rural Action welcomes the introduction by Scottish Government of what it calls a “historic bill” to create a sustainable future for Scotland’s islands.
Under the proposed legislation, local authorities would be given greater powers over activities on and around their coastlines, along with the creation of a National Islands Plan, greater flexibility around councillor representation within island communities. The Western Isles’ Na h-Eileanan an Iar Scottish parliamentary constituency boundary would also be given statutory protection.
Scottish Islands Minister, Humza Yousaf, said “This government is committed to promoting islands’ voices to harnessing islands’ resources and enhancing their well-being.
“The measures in this bill underpin this ambition. In particular, the provision to “island-proof” decision-making across the public sector will ensure the interests of islanders are reflected in future legislation and policy from the very outset.
“The National Islands Plan will set out the strategic direction for supporting island communities, continuing the momentum generated by the Our Islands Our Future campaign and the work of the Islands Strategic Group.
“This is the first ever bill for Scotland’s islands, marking an historic milestone for our island communities.”
Local authorities ramped up the Our Islands Our Future campaign in the run up to and after Scotland’s independence referendum in 2014. The introduction of the bill marks it’s first stage in progress through parliament.
The next step would involve proposing and voting on amendments before the final step of consideration.
The publication of the bill is most welcome news to many local authorities that will fall under the details of plans it sets out.
Orkney Islands Council and Highland Council are just two of the councils who support the bill, with James Stockan, leader of Orkney Islands Council, saying that “We (Orkney Islands Council) will be working tirelessly with Scottish Government to ensure that there is an objective standard by which decisions over whether to conduct an Islands Communities Assessment are made and also how the legislation will be interpreted”.
Margaret Davidson, leader of Highland Council, said that the bill’s introduction recognised “the importance of island communities and the valued contribution they make.
“I am particularly pleased that the Scottish government is seeking to make provision for the requirement to island-proof future legislation and policies.
“This is an important first step but it should not stop there. We also need rural proofing of government policies as many of our rural communities face the same issues that our islands face.”