David Stewart, MSP for Highlands and Islands, has called for more powers to be devolved to Island Authorities.
“The time is right,” he said, “for a new Islands Bill. Who better to know what investment the Islands need than those living in the communities themselves.
“The Scottish Government needs to decentralise control, and consolidate, develop and extend the powers of the Islands Councils.”
Mr Stewart was speaking during the Islands Debate in the Scottish Parliament, where he also celebrated the work of the three Islands Councils that are working together on Our Islands, Our Future – Western Isles, Shetland Islands and Orkney.
He continued: “It would also be a strong step if public bodies could be devolved out to the Islands. For example, OfCom to the Western Isles, Crown Estates to Orkney or Marine Scotland to Shetland.
“Not only would this show the Scottish Government’s commitment to strengthening the powers of the islands, but would also lead to job creation in some of our most peripheral communities. The nice words from the Government regarding the Islands Bill are all well and good, but we need firm action to back it up.
“Finally, I must reiterate my firm belief that the power of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise board must not be taken away and put into a centralised pot somewhere else in Scotland. HIE, and formerly HIDB, were set up for a reason – to prevent the Highlands and Islands getting the same raw deal they had been getting.
“That case still exists today and we must fight to keep the powers where they belong – within the communities they represent.”