It may have escaped your notice because we’ve been engulfed by the double whammy of a Covid pandemic and the unfolding complications of trade now we have left the EU but Scotland has an Islands Act. And as part of that Islands Act it produces an Islands Plan.
To see if the Islands Plan was actually being effective in addressing the particular needs of the islands, the James Hutton Institute posted out invitations to take part in a survey – 20,000 surveys were posted to adult residents of 76 permanently inhabited islands, You could complete it on paper or online – 4,347 people responded to the survey from 59 islands, giving a response rate of 22%.
You can view the report here: National Islands Plan Survey: final report
The report recognises that every island is different and the needs of the communities in them also differ.
Any recommendations or polices should recognise that life is considerably different in each island group and that different age groups, too, have distinct experiences of island life. Therefore tailoring to each island group and different age groups seems appropriate.National Islands Plan Survey – final report
It will come as no surprise to anyone living in our islands that islanders identified some of the issues of concern as : transport, housing, fuel poverty, depopulation and digital connectivity.
There is strong evidence of dissatisfaction with housing among respondents, with perceived poor availability of housing – and affordable housing – in many islands. In contrast, the majority of island groups reported high proportions of holiday and second homes.
This ties in with local surveys conducted in Orkney, most recently the one by HomeStart Orkney which can be found here: “One parent described the family as living in one room” : Shocking Report on Housing & Heating in Orkney
Orkney has the highest rate of fuel poverty in Scotland whilst producing 120% of the islands electricity needs from renewables. Orkney: 120% Renewables Energy Production & The Highest Rates of Fuel Poverty
The survey also showed that the cost of heating your home was a significant issue across the islands.
“Over a third of island residents said that their home sometimes felt uncomfortably cold in the winter.“
And on digital connectivity no one will be surprised by this result:
“Mobile signals vary, with particularly poor reports from Orkney Outer Isles.“
So what happens next with this kind of report?
Dr Ruth Wilson, lead author of the report on the findings of the survey, said:
“The findings underline just how diverse our islands are. Life in one island can be experienced very differently from life in another, even where these islands are close by.
“The findings also show that the challenges facing a young person can be quite different from those facing an older person living in the same island group.
“This is a big step forward in understanding the realities of life across Scotland’s islands and improving the islands’ evidence base.”
Islands Secretary Mairi Gougeon said that the report will be used to monitor the “effectiveness of the implementation of the National Islands Plan and improve the availability of data held about Scotland’s islands.”
“The aim of the National Islands Plan is to improve the quality of life for island communities by showing them that they are very important to our nation, we care about their futures and that their voices are strong and being heard.”
It’ll be interesting to see if the view of islanders will be ‘heard’ by Scottish Government Ministers over HIAL’s Remote Towers Project. Damning Impact Assessment: ‘significant uncertainties’ in HIAL Remote Towers Project (HIAL, Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd is wholly owned by Scottish Government Ministers)
The full report on the findings of the National Islands Plan survey can be accessed at https://www.gov.scot/publications/national-islands-plan-survey-final-report. An online tool for exploring the results is available at https://www.hutton.ac.uk/islands-survey.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame