Islands minister Humza Yousaf has lauded the “significant” cultural and economic contribution island communities make to Scotland while announcing the progression of the Islands Bill.
The introduction of the Islands Bill comes less than a year after the Scottish government started a consultation on what island residents thought should be included in the bill.
Following the launch of Our Islands Our Future in June 2013 then First Minister Alex Salmond vowed to give island communities greater autonomy in his “Lerwick declaration”.
This pledge appears to be reaching its final stages, three years after it was promised.
In March the government announced the key findings of the consultation, which showed that some 91 per cent of respondents believed the government should consider “island-proofing” legislation.
Seventy-three per cent stated that the current powers of island councils were insufficient, while views were evenly split on whether any additions should be made to the existing Zetland and Orkney County Council Acts of 1974.
Mr Yousaf, who took on the role of islands minister following the Scottish elections earlier this year, made the comments during a trip to the Western Isles where he met local producers and community representatives.
He said: “Our islands make a significant contribution to Scottish life from both a cultural and economic perspective. As such, I am immensely proud to be able to announce that I am bringing forward an Islands Bill less than a year after my predecessor launched the government’s consultation on potential provisions.
“We have placed the aspirations and needs of our island communities at the centre of our empowerment agenda. Drawing on the work of both the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group and the consultation findings, the Bill will provide lasting benefits for all our island communities for generations to come.”
Mr Yousaf added: “I believe that this demonstrates our strong and continued support for our island communities and our desire to deliver quickly on the election promises set out in our manifesto. I now look forward to working with the various island communities and representatives in bringing this into effect over the next year.”
The announcement comes three weeks after Mr Yousaf’s first visit to Shetland as islands minister. During his time in the isles Mr Yousaf announced a ferry fare freeze and insisted that reductions would follow. However, he has faced criticism for not living up to a pre-election promise to cut fares.