The first “Islands Working Group” involving representatives of the three islands councils in Scotland has met UK government figures in Edinburgh today.
Proposals for the working group were set out in the government’s “Framework for the Islands” that was published on 15th August on the back of work done by the Our Islands Our Future (OIOF) campaign.
Shetland was represented at the meeting by SIC chief executive Mark Boden, with Angus Campbell (leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar), Steven Heddle (convener of Orkney Islands Council) and Malcolm Burr (chief executive of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar) making up the rest of the OIOF delegation.
Afterwards Mr Heddle said: “We were delighted to be able to meet the secretary of state for Scotland and representatives from a wide spectrum of UK government departments this morning.
“It provided us with an important opportunity to take forward some of our priority areas, such as ensuring islands’ interests are reflected in UK government policy making, island grid connections, fuel poverty, EU representation and the seabed owned by the Crown Estate. Those are some of the key points we covered in our recent submission to the Smith Commission.
“We also agreed to hold an Islands Summit with the secretary of state in March 2015 and discussed the islands’ contribution, through the Scotland Office, to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
“We made the point to the secretary of state that there is an appetite in the islands for tangible delivery from the campaign. We feel that, through the actions identified from this meeting, we have identified the routes for delivering some of the key campaign priority areas”.
Scottish secretary and Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael added: “I was very pleased to have the opportunity to meet again with the islands councils and begin to turn some of the commitments in the Islands Framework into action by agreeing on the key priorities over the months ahead.
“Islands communities face unique challenges and today’s meeting – which was attended by a broad range of UK government departments – reflects our commitment to working with the islands councils to enable communities in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles to fully benefit from the abundant natural resources they are blessed with.”
• More in Friday’s Shetland Times