Pomp and ceremony (Cameron Smith)
During Monday’s pomp and ceremony the SNP launched their manifesto for the islands.
The central idea is an Islands Act (for surely a Bill must be passed to have some worth), which only seeks to compound the problems of centralised control that have marked the last nine years of a nationalist administration.
Central bodies will be asked to consider the islands when making policies. If they haven’t being doing so for the past years, have they really been doing their job correctly?
Other policies too are included, such as health care and education, but without mention of the higher costs that are incurred by islands councils providing those services or other challenges specific to Shetland.
I don’t believe we need a padded out “10-point plan” or an Islands Act which is puffed up statutory guidance. Instead we need to see proper devolution of powers, not just from Westminster to Holyrood, but also beyond.
The Crown Estate’s powers are a perfect example of devolution which under the SNP stops in Edinburgh, but under the Conservatives would continue to local communities.
Central policies must too be developed with the islands in mind from the outset, not an afterthought as a tick-box exercise of island proofing.
Lastly, the manifesto talks of an Islands Plan. The SNP appointed an islands minister some 18 months ago. What has he been doing all that time if he hasn’t had a plan?
Scottish Conservative candidate