SIC political leader Gary Robinson has welcomed a Scottish Parliament committee report calling for devolution of seabed tax raising powers as a priority.
Mr Robertson said that a commitment to devolve air passenger duty was also welcome, but the cornerstone of the Our Islands Our Future campaign (OIOF), undertaken by the SIC in conjunction with Orkney and the Western Isles, remained devolution of the seabed Crown Estate to the islands themselves.
The recommendations were outlined in yesterday’s Devolution (Further Powers) Committee report to the Scottish
government, which is scathing of some of Westminster’s “draft clauses” that will lead to full legislation on further devolution in due course. The committee report features on the front page of The Shetland Times 15th May edition.
An online petition has also been set up to ensure pressure is kept on the government to deliver promises made on OIOF. The islands leaders are also seeking meetings with Scottish secretary David Mundell to progress the issue.
Mr Robertson added: “While there is obviously some way to go around negotiations between the UK and Scottish governments on future devolution of powers, we’re extremely pleased with the support shown for our aims by this cross-party committee.
“There are several aspects of the report we welcome – including a commitment to devolve air passenger duty – but devolution of the revenues and management of the Crown Estate to the islands has been one of the key pieces of work OIOF has pursued, and it clearly has the support of both governments.
“We look forward now to working with them to put these changes in place as soon as possible.”
In its recommendations for the Crown Estate, the report states: “Once the powers over the Crown Estate have been transferred, the committee recommends the early implementation of the Smith Commission recommendation that ― responsibility of the management of the Crown Estate assets in Scotland should be devolved further to local authorities such as Orkney, Shetland, Na h-Eilean Siar or other areas who seek such responsibilities.
“These are matters where discussions should, in our view, continue to progress as a matter of urgency and we endorse the work of the Scottish government and the Our Islands, Our Future initiative to reach an amicable agreement that suits local circumstances.”
Highlands and Islands MSP and shadow islands minister David Stewart backed the calls for the devolution of substantial powers to the islands that would help to develop and support fragile communities and also help reduce fuel poverty.
He has set up and internet petition seeking support for the campaign.
Mr Stewart said: “I think it is important that we listen to what the people of our islands have to say on this matter and I would ask all to support the calls of the islands leaders and myself and show their support by signing the online petition”.
“I am glad to hear the leaders of the three island councils are seeking an early meeting with the new Scottish Secretary and I will continue to support the Island authorities in their pursuit of devolution to the benefit of our Islands.”