SNP: ‘Westminster offer to Scotland’s islands falls flat’

The UK Government’s offer to Scotland’s island communities ‘falls well short of the opportunities offered by a Yes vote’, the SNP has said today.

The Scottish Government has made an offer of more powers, greater autonomy and enhanced support for island communities after a Yes vote.

Despite this, the representatives of the three Island councils did appear pleased with the UK Government’s proposed plans announced this morning, Friday August 15th.

The Scottish Government has set out a range of commitments to Scotland’s islands after a Yes vote – including creating a post of ‘Minister for Island Communities’, ensuring 100 per cent of the net income from the islands’ sea bed accrues to island communities rather than central government and placing a duty on the Scottish Government and other public bodies to ‘island-proof’ their functions and decisions.

Commenting, Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Mike Mackenzie said:

“The UK Government’s offering to Scotland’s islands falls well short of what our islands need - and the report itself recognises this. The Scottish Government is clear that independence will offer huge opportunities for our island communities.

“A Yes vote will see greater representation for our island communities and will guarantee greater autonomy – the UK Government’s offer today is nothing more than a hastily thrown together attempt to distract from their failure to match the Scottish Government’s commitment on the Crown Estate.

“A Yes vote is our opportunity to guarantee more powers for our islands and to see the wealth from our seabed accrue to the islands rather than central government – it’s clear that the Westminster establishment has no intentions of matching this plan in the event of a No vote.”

SNP MSP for Na-h Eileanan an Iar Alasdair Allan has today questioned the purpose of the UK Government’s announcements in Stornoway on decision making power for the islands. He said: “I welcome any engagement by the UK Government with the concerns of people in Scotland’s islands, but with the best will in the world, it is difficult to see what if anything the Scottish Secretary has offered the islands today.

“The Scottish Government has of course recently published a detailed set of proposals including everything from 100% local devolution of the Crown Estate revenues, to the creation of an Islands Minister, Island representation on the European Committee of the Regions, and constitutional guarantees over the role of islands in an independent Scotland.

“By contrast, the UK Government have today offered to speak to the island councils, continue to deliver the post in the future and invited the islands to be represented at some internal meetings in the Scotland Office. This is, of course a UK Government department which delivers virtually no public services in the islands or anywhere else. Even by the admission of the document published today, the proposals on the Crown Estate fall well short of what was asked for, and it is very difficult to see how this amounts to any meaningful transfer of control or revenue.

“If this is as much as the UK Government is prepared to offer the islands in the event of a No vote, it is pretty easy to see how little Scotland would be offered in these circumstances. If the islands and Scotland as a whole want power to run things better in the future, we have to vote for that, and we have the opportunity to do that on 18 September.”