The Islands Bill has been hailed as a “real achievement” towards making sure island communities thrive.
The Bill, which passed its stage one debate at Holyrood yesterday, requires the Scottish government and other public bodies to consider the impact which their laws and decisions would have on inhabited islands.
It also states that minister must draw up a National Islands Plan. This will set out the objectives and strategies for helping island communities.
Highlands and Islands List MSPs expressed their support for the Bill after attending the Scottish Parliament debate.
Conservative member Jamie Halcro Johnston said: “The Islands Bill is a real achievement for the island communities, being brought forward after several years of work from the island authorities particularly through the Our Islands Our Future campaign.”
He added: “For the Scottish government’s commitments to the islands to be realised, work will have to continue. We are looking to see a robust Islands Plan which reflects the priorities of islanders and for assurances that island needs will be considered fully and relevant adjustments made during future policy decisions.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens’ John Finnie said: “Our island communities face many unique challenges and I am pleased that this important piece of legislation has been brought forward which should ensure ‘island proofing’ is given due consideration as part of all future government policy.”
He added: “Some of the most resilient and supportive communities in Scotland are within islands and I believe this Bill has the potential to be a step in the right direction of empowering these island communities in a manner they deserve.”
SNP minister and list MSP Maree Todd said it was “great” to see her party’s Bill progress through Parliament.
“I know very well what a tangible difference this historic Bill will make to the people I represent, ” she said. “In particular, I am really pleased to see the provision of ‘island proofing’ which will ensure that all future legislation and government policies take into account the distinct interests and needs of islanders.”
Isles MSP Tavish Scott this week told The Shetland Times that he hopes the Islands Bill will lead to greater investment in Shetland.
The Lib Dem member said superfast broadband and fixed links are two areas which need more attention.
The Islands Bill now has to pass through the second and third stages of the law-making process before it can gain Royal Assent and come into legal effect.