The UK government has today announced a 10-point plan for Scottish islands as part of a framework established in response to the Our Islands Our Future campaign.
Secretary of state Alistair Carmichael launched the agreement – the first of its kind in the country – in Stornoway this morning.
It is hoped the framework should embed an “islands voice” at the heart of government.
The aim is to reflect the priorities of Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles more closely in decision making and policy. It follows extensive dialogue between Westminster and the three island authorities, and is said to represent the most comprehensive examination of island priorities since the Montgomery Commission of 1984.
The 10-point plan features:
• Island proofing, with new arrangements to scrutinise UK government policy and legislation to ensure they take account of priorities in the islands.
• Economic benefits, with a new Islands Working Group supported by a dedicated position in the Scotland Office. The group will have its agenda set by the islands covering key priorities.
• A new oil and gas islands forum, with a framework that recognises islands as vital to meeting the UK’s energy needs.
• Renewable Energy, with a firm UK government commitment to renewable energy.
• Social needs – the framework recognises the island groups face particular challenges in transport, postal services, digital connectivity and fuel poverty.
• Transport – this includes seeking an extension to the Air Discount Scheme and a commitment to consider fiscal measures to support transport connectivity with the island groups.
• Digital connectivity – the government says it is committed to funding a mobile infrastructure project, working to provide improved mobile coverage. The UK government is also committed to providing parity of minimum service level between the UK mainland and islands by delivering standard broadband of at least 2Mbps to all parts of Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles.
• Crown Estate – the framework also contains measures to strengthen the transparency and accountability of the Crown Estate.
• EU and representation on government bodies. A dedicated point of contact to offer advice to islands within the UK representation to the EU.
Mr Carmichael said: “Today’s announcement is a landmark for the relationship between the UK government and our island communities in Scotland. It builds on a great deal of good work in the past and will strengthen the voice of our islands at the heart of government.
“It will mean their unique needs are considered across all UK government activity and legislation, tailoring our approach to ensure islands issues continue to get the attention they require.
“That is good news for the councils and for the whole country and will improve the economy, connectivity and lives of people on our islands.”
SIC political leader Gary Robinson added: “At the outset of the Our Islands Our Future campaign, we said that we wanted to engage with both the Scottish and UK governments, and for that to lead to published statements of intent. I welcome today’s launch and feel that it represents another important output from our campaign.”
In June First Minsiter Alex Salmond announced the Scottish government’s response to the Our Islands Our Future campaign. Among the significant proposals for Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles was that the islands should keep all monies currently taken for seabed rental by the Crown Estate.
A full copy of the framework document can be viewed here – UKG ISLANDS FRAMEWORK – 15 August