United islands approach Prime Minister

Scotland’s Islands Councils – Shetland, Orkney and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar – have made a direct approach to the Scottish and UK Governments to drive forward their Our Islands – Our Future campaign.

First Minister Alex Salmond, Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have been asked to respond to questions posed jointly by the three Councils.

The Labour Party Leader has also been asked to join the debate on a stronger future for Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles following the Independence Referendum in 2014, as have the leaders of the opposition parties at Holyrood.

The three Councils are politically neutral on the issue of Scottish independence. They are working closely together on the Our Islands - Our Future campaign.to secure the best possible outcome for their communities – whatever the result of the Referendum.

They want to see the special position and needs of the UK’s three largest island groups fully taken into account in new constitutional arrangements for Scotland. They are also seeking additional powers and resources to give them a greater ability to shape the destinies of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.

These areas are covered by the challenges sent to political leaders on both sides of the independence debate.

Their responses will help shape the debate at a major conference on Our Islands – Our Future (Ar n-Eileanan - Ri teachd) to be staged by the three Councils in Orkney from September 19-20.

Representatives of the three Councils met in Orkney this week to agree the next steps in the Our Islands – Our Future Campaign.

Shetland Islands Council Leader Gary Robinson said: “We made good progress, exploring the key themes of the project, identifying speakers for the forthcoming conference and populating the guest list.

“The timing of this get-together was critical as it allowed us to refine our message ahead of the Cabinet meetings in Lerwick next week when we’ll have the opportunity to discuss our aspirations face-to-face with Scottish Ministers.”

Orkney Islands Council Convener Steven Heddle said: “We’ve made plain from the start our determination to engage with politicians on both sides of the independence debate.

“By writing direct to political leaders, our aim is to secure tangible commitments that support us in our shared objectives. We have asked them to meet us to discuss the questions we’ve posed, or to respond in writing to us.

“After a successful campaign launch last month, we are pleased with progress to date. As well as a great deal of interest within our own communities, we are gathering increasing support from across local government in Scotland, which recognises our principled commitment to genuine local democracy.”The campaign has also secured the unanimous backing of the Islands Commission of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR), which represents 15 million people living in Europe’s island communities.

Angus Campbell, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “The campaign to win increased powers is crucial for the future of Island communities and we will continue to lobby Government at a Scottish and UK level.

“Our Islands - Our Future is progressing well and I was pleased to participate in a very positive discussion with our Island colleagues from Shetland and Orkney in advance of the Scottish Cabinet meeting in Shetland next week.”