The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee is seeking opinions from islanders on the priorities set out in the Scottish Government’s proposed National Islands Plan.

The Committee is today (Thursday October 10th) launching a call for views, which also invites comments from local authorities and others with an interest in island communities, to inform its scrutiny of the draft Plan.

Currently, the Plan sets out 13 strategic objectives aimed at improving outcomes for island communities.

These objectives include measures to address population decline, improve and promote sustainable economic development, and improve housing and transport services, as well as expanding digital connectivity.

In its Stage 1 report on the Islands (Scotland) Bill, the REC Committee said that it expected the Plan to “set out both a clear strategic direction and practical approaches to delivery”.

Speaking as the call for views was launched, Committee Convener, Edward Mountain MSP, said:

“A key recommendation in our report on the Islands Bill was that the Scottish Government must ensure that the priority areas featured in the National Islands Plan reflect the actual priorities of islanders.

“To that end, this call for views gives islanders the opportunity to express their opinions on the objectives set out in the draft Plan.

“The Committee has a limited timeframe within which to consider the proposed Plan. It is therefore crucial that we hear as wide a range of views as possible in order that we are able to fairly judge the Scottish Government’s proposals.”

Other objectives of the Plan, which is being developed as part of the implementation of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, are to improve and promote health and well-being and education, to support arts, culture and language, and to empower diverse communities.

The Plan also seeks to improve and promote environmental well-being and deal with biosecurity, and to ensure that Scottish islands are at the forefront of measures to tackle climate change. 

The Convener added:“This Committee supports the empowerment of island communities and local decision making, and the views of islanders will inform our recommendations to the Scottish Government in its preparation of the final Plan.”

More information can be found online at www.parliament.scot/rural-economy-committee

The Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has welcomed the draft National Islands Plan.

Councillor Roddie Mackay said: “I very much welcome the publication of the draft National Plan for Scotland’s Islands which came about as a direct result of the Our Islands: Our Future campaign.

Based on consultation with island Authorities, individuals and other agencies, the draft Plan sets out the priorities for Islands including improving outcomes for Island communities. These outcomes include:

  • Increase in population levels;
  • Improving and promoting: Sustainable economic development; Environmental Wellbeing; Health and Wellbeing; and Community Empowerment;
  • Improving Transport Services;
  • Improving Digital Connectivity;
  • Reducing Fuel Poverty;
  • Ensuring effective management of the Scottish Crown Estate; and
  • Enhancing Biodiversity.

It is recognised from the introduction to the Plan that the overall purpose is to improve meaningfully outcomes for Island communities, aligned with a commitment to sustainable development goals, and, critically, a human rights-based approach.

The Comhairle looks forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government and our other partners in improving lives for those in our communities, and developing the actions to be taken to implement the Strategic Objectives . The Islands Plan is an important step in taking that forward and we hope that that is complemented by appropriate resourcing, for instance through the Islands Deal.  We also look forward to seeing the guidance on Community Impact Assessments which are due in December of this year and will be an integral part of ‘Island Proofing’.  We will now examine the draft Plan in detail and respond to Government as appropriate.”