The Islands Act which started its life in Orkney’s ‘Our Islands Our Future’ and which has now produced an Islands Plan (Have Your Say About The National Islands Plan) is the envy of other local authorities in Scotland.
Gail Ross, SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross has published a consultation document which aims to move towards a similar deal for other areas of Scotland.
Download the consultation information here and how to respond: Safeguarding Scotland’s remote rural communities
Gail Ross is proposing to produce a Bill in the Scottish Parliament on the issue.
The latest update of the Highland Council’s Corporate Plan 2019-20223 contains the prediction that the population of Caithness is due to fall by 21.1%, that of Sutherland by 11.9% and Skye and Lochalsh by 11.8%. These figures are estimates based on no work being done to stop the decline.
The consultation wants to get the views of the whole of Scotland,
“to gauge whether this fall can be reversed and to encourage public bodies to take impacts on remote rural communities into account when making policy”
Where we have Islands Proofing the proposed Bill would seek to see ‘Rural Proofing’ put in place for Scotland not covered by the Islands Act. As with the Islands Act which has produced an Islands Plan, the Bill envisages a ‘National Remote Rural Plan’.
This is where I have concerns with the ‘words’ used and one in particular.
‘Remote’ is a word used by an Edinburgh/London centric view of Scotland. It illustrates a mind set which already considers beautiful and vibrant areas of Scotland which are either north or south as ‘hard to reach’ – ‘remote’. The first thing anyone needs to do who wishes to retain young people, families and encourage the economy of an area is to stop using the word ‘remote’ or any other versions of it.
At page 14 of the document there is actually a list of classifications defining remote and rural. Readers might be interested to note that we in Orkney – a world leader in renewables, a world class visitor destination for cruise liners and with 3 University campuses is described as ‘very remote rural’.
I would encourage people to respond to this consultation. Until the description of communities in Scotland as ‘remote’ and ‘very remote’ is challenged and changed, those of us who live and thrive in these areas will forever battle with the erroneous image it projects.
The Consultation closes on 31 January 2020.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame