A 10-point manifesto which puts “investment and empowerment” at the heart of island communities has been launched by the First Minister.
Nicola Sturgeon unveiled the plans as she campaigned with isles candidate Danus Skene and islands minister Derek Mackay.
Ms Sturgeon said that new powers coming to the Scottish parliament meant that May’s election was the most important since devolution.
She highlighted the Crown Estate and winter fuel payments as two new powers which an SNP government would put directly to work for the benefit of island communities.
The publication of today’s island manifesto kicks off two days of campaigning by Ms Sturgeon in the Northern Isles, with the SNP leader visiting Orkney tomorrow.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Investment and empowerment are at the heart of the SNP’s manifesto for the islands – a firm commitment to support the local economies while also giving islanders a greater say over their public services and their resources.
“Our island communities benefit from our record investment in the NHS and support for education.
“And we have protected discounts for island air travel, frozen ferry fares for the Northern Isles and are working with island communities on how to improve and protect ferry services.
“Having engaged extensively with stakeholders over the last couple of years, we’ll work with them to produce a national islands plan in the new session, and also bring forward an Islands Bill to reflect the unique opportunities and challenges of the island communities.
“And we’re determined that the new powers coming to the Scottish parliament are put to work for the Northern Isles.
“Not only will our island communities benefit from 100 per cent of the Crown Estate revenues that they raise, but they will have a greater say in how the assets of the Crown Estate are managed.
“And we’ll ensure that the winter fuel payments, also being devolved to Holyrood, will be paid early to people who are ‘off-grid’ – making a huge difference to older people in remote areas.”
Ms Sturgeon said that, with the new powers coming to the parliament, this would be “the most important election since devolution”.
We’re determined that the new powers coming to the Scottish parliament are put to work for the Northern Isles. NICOLA STURGEON
“By giving both votes to the SNP, people across all of Scotland’s islands can elect a government which will use every power at its disposal for our island communities.”
The 10 key pledges in the SNP’s manifesto for the islands:
• The Scottish government says it will invest record amounts in the NHS, supporting health care across island groups with more healthcare in the community.
• It has also pledged to double free childcare on the islands and take action to improve attainment in schools.
• Key among the plans are an Islands Bill so Scotland’s island communities have a stronger voice and continue the islands working group.
• The SNP says island businesses will benefit from a small business bonus and receive 100 per cent broadband coverage by the end of the parliament.
• It promises to develop a national islands plan to ensure island-groups fulfil their economic potential.
• It says it will invest £5m in supporting island and rural produce.
• The Scottish government also says it will support the energy industry on the islands and will push the UK government to deliver the connections that are needed.
• It says it will pay winter fuel allowance early to people who are “off-grid”.
• It is also pledging to support residents who need to travel by continuing to provide concessionary travel for our older people and maintain the Air Discount scheme at 50 per cent, investing in quality ferry service provision and continuing to keep fares fair across all islands.
• Island communities will receive the full revenues from Crown Estate assets around their shores and have a greater say in how the assets of the Crown Estate are managed.