More powers for Scotland’s islands

First Minister sets out prospectus ‘Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities’ on two day visit to Orkney

First Minister Alex Salmond will today, Monday, June 16, set out a programme to empower Scotland’s islands.

The proposals, which are the result of nearly a year’s collaboration between the Islands Council Leaders and the Scottish Government regarding the Our Islands, Our Future campaign, covers Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles and also extend to all of Scotland’s islands.

The islands prospectus will show how, with the powers of independence, Scotland’s islands can be empowered to have greater control over their local economies, natural environment and have a guarantee that their concerns on all issues will be heard at the heart of government.

The prospectus will set out opportunities from renewables and aquaculture which would benefit all island communities.

Ahead of the launch in Kirkwall, the First Minister said: “In July 2013, in Shetland, I set out the Lerwick Declaration, that just as we believe the people of Scotland are best placed to make decisions about what happens in Scotland, so we believe in self-determination and the right of local communities to have a greater role in their own future.

“That principle has guided our engagement with Scotland’s islands and is at the heart of these proposals.

“Today, I will set out a further programme of increased powers for Scotland’s island communities. The prospectus, Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities, is the outcome of close partnership working between Islands Council Leaders and the Scottish Government, as part of the Ministerial Working Group established last year.

“The prospectus demonstrates the opportunities independence can bring for Scotland’s islands to secure a better and more prosperous future. In addition, the prospectus will also set out the action that is being taken now in a number of devolved areas.

“Scotland’s islands are special. They are beautiful and diverse, enjoying rich histories, healthy economies and immense prospects for future growth. It is our shared responsibility to ensure they play an essential part in Scotland’s future.

“Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities will help ensure just that. Alongside the Lerwick Declaration and the announcement of a place for Scotland’s islands in the constitution, this prospectus holds opportunities that I hope will be seized across all of our islands.”

Speaking on behalf of the three councils, Orkney Islands Council Convener Steven Heddle said: “Our island groups face unique challenges, not least because of our geographic remoteness from the rest of the country. Our firm belief is that empowering our islands would bring many benefits – giving us the tools invest in our communities and drive sustainable economic growth.

“Over the past 12 months we have presented what we believe to be a strong and compelling case and the Scottish Government has clearly demonstrated its willingness to work and negotiate with us.

“The end result of those negotiations is today’s launch of the Government’s response to the case we’ve made for our islands. This is an important day for our campaign and for our communities.”