The Scottish Parliament is seeking the views of the public, especially those of us who live on islands, about what we think about the Islands Bill. It is the First Stage of a National Islands Plan.
The Bill comes after many years of consultations, negotiations and extremely hard work by all 3 Island Authorities and the Scottish Government. Starting out in 2013 with ‘Our Islands Our Future’ and progressing through many discussions including the important issues of the Crown Estate, social and economic matters, energy, renewables, transport and how we are represented locally.
“A Bill for an Act of the Scottish Parliament to make provision for a national islands plan; to impose duties in relation to island communities on certain public authorities; to make provision about the electoral representation of island communities; and to establish a licensing scheme in respect of marine development adjacent to islands. “
The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee will be taking the lead and looking at the evidence sent in by individuals and organisations. In particular they are interested in your responses to the following questions:
- The Bill creates a duty to publish a national islands plan and lay it before the Scottish Parliament. What are your views on this provision?
- The Bill will require Scottish Ministers and certain Scottish public authorities, to prepare island impact assessments. Do you agree with this provision? How do you think it should work in practice?
- The Bill proposes to protect the Scottish Parliamentary constituency boundary of Na h-Eileanan an Iar (the Western Isles) from change. Do you agree with this?
- The Bill proposes to make an exception to the rules for local government electoral wards to allow areas with inhabited islands to return 1 or 2 members (instead of the usual 3 or 4). What are your views on this proposal?
- The Bill will provide a regulation-making power for the Scottish Ministers to create a marine licensing scheme for coastal waters. Do you agree with this power? Do you have any comments on how it should be used?
- Does the Bill achieve its aims and are you in favour overall? Is there anything else that you feel should be included or excluded from the Bill?
- Do you have any comments on the bill in relation to human rights or equalities?
What is in the Islands Bill?
One of the thing to be looked at during the progress of the Islands Bill is the number of councillors we have in Orkney in each ward and how they are distributed with the multi member wards. This area will be explored with the Boundary Commission.
“This section of the Bill amends the 2004 Act to provide an exception to the usual three or four member rule for electoral wards in relation to wards which consist either wholly or mainly of one or more inhabited islands. In these circumstances the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland will have the flexibility to propose wards of one or two members”.
The issue of 3/4 councillors representing more than 1 island (or part of an island) may change so that in future separate islands may have a sole councillor (or 2 depending on size of ward) representing them.
With the following being taken into account:
- the interests of effective and convenient local government
- that each councillor should as near as possible represent the same number of electors
- the desirability of fixing boundaries that are easily identifiable
- any local ties which would be broken by making a particular boundary
- special geographic considerations that may need different treatment
It may also remain unchanged.
Island Proofing is another phrase for Impact Assessment. What this means is that before any legislation is passed by the Scottish Parliament or before other public authorities carry out changes in the delivery of a service that these changes must be tested to ensure that they are not detrimental to the lives of island communities.
“The intention is that island communities impact assessments will become a normal procedural step in public authorities’ decision-making processes, in the manner of the equality impact assessment, used in relation to the duties contained in the Equality Act 2010.”
Anyone who wishes to carry out a development activity in the Islands Marine Area will have to first obtain a licence from the council. People who have already been granted a licence will not be affected by this. Excluded from the granting of marine licences are:
- oil & gas
These are all reserved matters to the UK Government. Also excluded is Fish Farming. This is because planning permission from a local authority is already required for fish farming.
The Marine Licences will cover the “Scottish Islands Marine Area” “which is up to a radius of 12 nautical miles from an island, measured from the low water mark of the ordinary spring tide.”
The Crown Estate
During the consultation period in the preparation of the Islands Bill the issue of the Crown Estate was raised by many contributors. This will be addressed through a separate Crown Estate Bill. There will also be a separate Bill for Planning.
You can view the Islands Bill here
Views must be sent in no later than Monday 25 September 2017
How to submit your evidence
Wherever possible, you should submit views using the template and send them electronically to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hard copy responses may be sent to: Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee,
T3.60, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh EH99 1SP
Ideally, responses should be no more than four sides of A4 in length.
You can also share your views using an online survey.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame