Scotland’s island communities will have greater control over their local economies, natural environment and be represented at the heart of government in an independent Scotland, First Minister Alex Salmond said today.
Launching the island prospectus, Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities, in Kirkwall, the First Minister outlined a package of powers for the island communities to highlight the benefits independence could bring.
In the prospectus, the Scottish Government has committed to implement a range of proposals, including:
- To bring forward a Bill for an Islands Act upon independence to place a duty on the Scottish Government and other public bodies to ‘island-proof’ their functions and decisions, and create a post of ‘Minister for Island Communities’
- To extend to 2020 the duration of the Enterprise Areas at Arnish, Lyness and Hatston, and support the establishment of Island Innovation Zones, to help sustain job opportunities
- To allocate, upon Independence, 100 per cent of the net income from the islands’ sea bed leasing revenues to island communities rather than to central government
- To ensure Islands Councils’ representation on a new strategic energy committee upon independence, and explore ways to mitigate any adverse community impacts from oil and gas activities consistent with our commitments made to the industry in Scotland’s Future
- To develop a ‘planning brief’ approach for aquaculture to underpin further development and growth of the sector, and develop a ‘Community Benefit Charter’ with the Islands Councils, the aquaculture industry and those involved in the regulatory framework
To ensure the special needs of island communities have a stronger voice and representation in Europe
These proposals are designed to go along with a range of recent measures already being implemented by the Scottish Government, including:
Additional top-up to island beef producers leading to an uplift of around €65 per calf under the Beef Voluntary Coupled Support (VCS) Scheme
Delegation of statutory regional marine planning for the Island areas (to 12 nautical miles) to local Marine Planning Partnerships, with the Islands Councils playing a lead role
Securing Islands council representation on committees to ensure voice in the Scotland Rural Development Programme
Speaking from Orkney College, the First Minister said: “Today’s prospectus is the most comprehensive package for empowering Scotland’s island communities that has been put forward by any Government. It recognises the unique contribution that island communities make to modern Scotland, and also the distinctive needs and priorities they have.
“Most of all, though, it recognises that Scotland’s islands have huge potential – a wealth of culture and history; stunning landscapes; massive renewable energy resources; and a host of successful businesses in sectors such as food and drink, life sciences and tourism.
“We are determined to work with the islands communities to unleash that potential and to create a sustainable and prosperous future. By doing so, we will honour the principles of subsidiarity and local decision-making at the heart of the Lerwick Declaration. And even more importantly, we will help to build wealthier and fairer island communities, as part of a wealthier and fairer Scotland.”
Convener of Orkney Islands Council Steven Heddle said:“The launch of Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities is a hugely significant milestone for the Our Islands Our Future campaign. Over the past year we’ve taken a politically neutral stance in presenting the case for a stronger future for our islands.
“The Scottish Government has clearly been willing to consider, negotiate and respond positively to the arguments we’ve made. The detailed response to the campaign published today represents a comprehensive commitment to islands in general and our island groups in particular. It establishes a framework for how our islands can be empowered and a bench mark for our engagement and relationship with government.“There is now a far greater understanding of the unique nature and needs of our island communities and that in itself bodes well for our future.”
Leader of Shetland Islands Council Gary Robinson, said: “We asserted at the outset of this process that the seas and the seabed around us are hugely important - both socially and economically - to our islands. By implementing the measures contained in Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities we can maximise the opportunities presented by fisheries and aquaculture, and realise the full potential of marine renewables, while protecting our pristine environment.
“Crown Estate powers and a share of the income generated from leasing agreements will allow us to support investment in our coastal communities and ensure that this has a lasting and sustainable impact. By strengthening and embedding the County Council Acts’ powers, each of the Islands’ Councils will be better able to manage the diverse and sometimes conflicting demands on the marine environment.”
Leader of Comhairlenan Eilean Siar, Angus Campbell, said: “This is a historic day for our island communities. When we launched Our Islands Our Future a year ago we could not have anticipated the amount of interest and discussion we were going to generate. This launch of the Scottish Government’s Prospectus is a product of those discussions and negotiations on a wide ranging list of subjects including the Crown Estate, Grid connections and the constitutional position of Island areas.
“Working closely with the Scottish Government, we have set out an agenda for the way forward for our Islands. The Scottish Government has now put forward the proposals in Empowering Island Communities which I warmly welcome. Of course, the work doesn’t stop here. Irrespective of the outcome of the Referendum in September there is much that can be achieved for Scotland’s islands and our on-going task, as always, will be to maximise the benefits for those who live in our Island communities.”