Historic bill will meet unique needs of Scotland’s islands
‘GAME- CHANGER’ legislation for island communities has been announced at an ‘exceptional’ community-run facility, writes Louise Glen.
On Monday (June 12) Islands minister Humza Yousaf MSP chose Tobermory’s Harbour Association (THA) to make the ‘ most significant announcement’ for island communities in decades.
Mr Yousaf revealed the Scottish Government’s Islands Bill, a strategic piece of legislation that will ‘island-proof’ all laws and public body standards for areas such as transport, travel, business, economy and health care.
Addressing board members of the THA, Mr Yousaf said: ‘We are introducing the Islands Bill to ensure the islands of Scotland are considered in the introduction of legislation.
‘It will, of course, have to make its way through the committee and parliamentary process, but it will be a game- changer for the islands. But this is a cross-party approach.’
Measures in the bill will include a requirement to ‘island-proof’ future legislation and policies, the creation of a National Islands Plan, statutory protection for the Na h-Eileanan an lar Scottish parliamentary constituency boundary, greater flexibility around councillor representation within island communities and extended powers to island councils in relation to marine licensing.
Mr Yousaf continued: ‘ This government is committed to promoting islands’ voices, to harnessing islands’ resources and enhancing their wellbeing. The measures in this bill underpin this ambition.
‘In particular, the provision to island-proof decision-making across the public sector will ensure the interests of islanders are reflected in future legislation and policy from the very outset.
‘The National Islands Plan will set out the strategic direction for supporting island communities, continuing the momentum generated by the Our Islands, Our Future campaign and the work of the Islands Strategic Group.
‘This is the first bill for Scotland’s islands, marking a historic milestone for our island communities. I am proud and privileged as islands minister to be guiding the bill through Scotland’s Parliament.’
Councillor Robin Currie, Argyll and Bute Council’s spokesman for islands, added: ‘The introduction of the bill is welcome news.
‘Argyll and Bute has 23 inhabited islands, each with its own distinct identity.
‘ We have been working to identify and address issues which affect them and take forward initiatives to attract people to the area and boost the local economy.
‘ We also joined forces with colleagues from the other island councils to work together for the benefit of all the island communities we represent.
‘The provisions of the bill acknowledge the unique needs of our islands and provide the support mechanism to facilitate further empowerment, help them prosper and grow. We will engage with our island communities and stakeholders to allow us to have an input to the bill.’
Islands minister Humza Yousaf, left, met members of Tobermory Harbour Association this week.