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Islands Bill Passes Stage 1 But Lacks Local Empowerment

Humza Yousaf

Photographer – Ashley Coombes 07887676002

The Islands Bill was debated in the Scottish Parliament as it passed stage 1 of its progress towards enactment. The Bill was introduced by the Islands Minister in the Scottish Government, Humza Yousaf.

The full Debate: Islands (Scotland) Bill – 8 February 2018 can be viewed by clicking the link.

The Scottish Greens have given the legislation a cautious welcome  by local MSP John Finnie who 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.

“Greens support calls for appropriate devolution to island authorities, ensuring day to day decision which impact people’s lives are made as close to them as possible. We are keen to see all local communities have more control over their resources.”

Local MSP Maree Todd, SNP welcomed the Bill saying:

“In particular, I am really pleased to see the provision of ‘island-proofing’ which will ensure that all future legislation and government policies takes into account the distinct interests and needs of islanders.

“No government has done more to devolve power to the people of Scotland with policies such as land reform, community buy-outs, forestry community asset transfer, commitment on Crown Estate revenues and now the islands bill.”

The Leader of Orkney Islands Council, James Stockan was pleased to hear Our Islands Our Future praised due to its pivotal role in bringing the Islands Bill to this stage.

James Stockan commented:

James Stockan

“It was heartening, during the debate, that many MSPs supported the inclusion of ways to assess existing legislation retrospectively, where there is potential for an adverse impact on island communities.”

“Other than the provision to extend the Council’s jurisdiction over marine licensing out to 12 nautical miles, the Bill at this stage does not empower local communities.

“Unless it results in island communities have a greater flexibility over local decision making, it could be considered that the Bill misses an opportunity to be truly transformational. This is particularly pertinent given the uncertainty emanating from Brexit.

“It was clear from the debate that MSP’s were cautioning Scottish Government that expectations will require to be managed. In simple terms, our communities will ask what difference the Bill will make to them. In the absence of any real empowerment, this places extra responsibility on the Government to ensure the National Islands Plan is truly empowering for our communities. We are now entering the amendment stage of the Bill and will work with Government and MSP’s to improve the Bill by way of amendments.”

The Islands Bill is now at stage 2 where it will be scrutinised further.

The Orkney News has many articles about The Islands Bill – use our search facility if you wish to view them. Included is a link to the report from the lead committee examining the Islands Bill, the RECC.

Managing the Expectations of Islanders

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

Birsay


 

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