A committee of MSPs has recommended that the general principles of the Islands Bill be agreed by the Scottish Parliament.
In its report published today, the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee has endorsed the Bill but says it is vital that the actual priorities of Islanders are reflected in the National Islands Plan that will follow the Bill.
Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee Convener Edward Mountain MSP said:
“This Bill is an enabling piece of legislation that will provide for future action by the Scottish Government. However, the Committee believes that the Scottish Government will need to manage the expectations of islanders who may expect more immediate, tangible outcomes to be delivered.
“I am pleased to be part of a Committee that sees the importance of engaging directly with rural and island communities. It was vital that our report on the Bill properly reflected the views and experiences of islanders. That is why we visited Mull, Lewis, Harris and Orkney and held video conferences with other islands.
“A key recommendation from us is that the Scottish Government must likewise ensure its National Islands Plan, when brought forward, also properly reflects the actual priorities of islanders.
“To that end, our report recommends that the Government adopts the widest possible consultation on the development of the National Islands Plan, and cautions that island impact assessments should not become a tick box exercise.
“This committee supports the empowerment of island communities and stresses the importance of local decision making. Our report, therefore, calls for local authority level plans to be created that sit under the National Islands Plan.”
On retrospective island impact assessments Mr Mountain added:
“While it is unrealistic to retrospectively assess all current legislation in Scotland, we think there should be a provision in the Bill to carry out an impact assessment where evidence suggests the existing law has a significant detrimental impact on the islands.”
The purpose of the Bill is to create a sustained focus on islands by the Scottish Government and to improve outcomes for island communities.
The full report is available here.
The Committee visited Lewis, Harris, Mull and Orkney. It also carried out video conferences with islanders on Arran as well as with students from a number of locations attending the University of the Highlands and Islands and Herriot Watt University.