Leader is confident islands’ position will be strengthened

The Island Areas Ministerial Working Group met for the fifth time today (Monday) in Stornoway.

Local Government Minister Derek Mackay chaired the meeting with the Leaders of the three islands councils, the Chief Executives of Orkney and Western Isles Councils, Alasdair Allan, Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages, and Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Environment and Climate Change.

The fifth meeting discussed further issues of importance to Scotland’s island communities.

Under the most extensive and ambitious programme to date, the Group’s discussions included state aid, legal and constitutional status, integration of public services, revenues and funding settlement, and planning and creative industries. Progress was made on a number of issues under discussion.

The Group will meet six times in total, and is working towards developing a prospectus outlining opportunities for island communities in the context of the referendum.

This follows the Lerwick Declaration made in Shetland last July by the First Minister, affirming the Scottish Government’s commitment to the principles of local decision-making and subsidiarity.

The final meeting of the Group is scheduled for Kirkwall in June, where it is expected to finalise discussions and reach an agreement on a prospectus for the islands.

Following the meeting, Local Government Minister Derek Mackay said: “I am delighted to note that we have now covered all issues raised by island partners, as we work towards the agreed prospectus which is set to be finalised at our next meeting in Kirkwall in June.

“The commitment of Scottish Ministers to this process demonstrates how seriously we consider the issues raised, and the importance we attach to the principles of subsidiarity and local decision-making, made clear in the First Minister’s Lerwick Declaration.

“I look forward to continuing our discussions with the islands councils as we move towards agreement on a prospectus that will provide the basis for an Islands Act following independence.”

Speaking on behalf of the Island Councils, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Angus Campbell, said:

“As we move closer to the referendum the time is coming for people to see what is being proposed for island areas. The Islands Councils and the Scottish Government are making real progress on moving towards the prospectus to be produced as a result of the Our Islands Our Future initiative. We have also made progress with the UK Government and we are confident that the islands’ position will be strengthened as a result of the discussions we have been undertaking on behalf of our communities.”