Landmark Islands Bill wins first vote

Minister for Transport and the Islands Humza Yousaf introduced the Islands Bill to Parliament last year.

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A new law aiming ‘to strengthen and protect Scotland’s island communities’ has passed its first stage vote in Holyrood.

Scotland’s first Islands Bill was debated by MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday. It requires the Scottish Government and other public bodies to consider the impact their laws and decisions would have on inhabited islands.

It also states that minister must draw up a National Islands Plan, which will set out the objectives and strategies for helping island communities.

Islands Minister Humza Yousaf said: ‘This is a landmark piece of legislation for Scotland, enshrining the interests of our unique and diverse island communities within the legislative process.

‘It is designed to build islands awareness into decision making across the public sector, ensuring interests of island communities are firmly at the centre of future legislative, policy and service considerations.

‘The Bill builds on our work to enhance island communities and economies, such as our investment of more than £1 billion in ferry services, £270 million in airport facilities across the highlands and islands – including more than £60 million in the air discount scheme – as well as £5 million in the Islands Housing Fund to deliver affordable homes.

‘It also complements our wider policy agenda, which addresses island-specific challenges including depopulation, energy, housing, transport, digital, and supporting sustainable economic development.’

Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie, the Scottish Greens’ island communities spokesperson, gave a cautious welcome to the Scottish Government’s Islands Bill as it was debated in parliament.

‘We are keen to see all local communities have more control over their resources. Marine licensing powers are, of course, particularly relevant to islands and I’m keen to hear more from the Scottish Government on how they intend to deliver on this complex matter.’

The stage one parliamentary debate is an opportunity to debate the general principles of the bill, with any amendments to the bill being considered at stages two, and three.