Scottish Islands Federation packs out conference

The National Island Plan team in Grimsay, North Uist

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Grimsay Community Hall in North Uist was packed for the Scottish Islands Federation’s annual conference.

Delegates travelled from Orkney, Argyll and Bute – including Luing and Lismore, Highland and North Ayrshire islands – as well as the Uists and Lewis to be there.

Eight Irish islands participants also attended as part of a LEADER funded Smart Islands and Young entrepreneurs project that was on at the same time.

The conference on October 3 coincided with the official publication of the National Island Plan.

Erica Clarkson who led on the Island Plan consultation and Nicola Crook from Strathclyde University law department, who was also part of the team, presented the results of this first large scale consultation for the Scottish islands.

Over a span of three months, 40 islands were visited involving development trusts and community councils as well primary and secondary schools.

The format of the consultation, devised by Sandy Bruton from the Mull and Iona Community Trust, provided a space for participants to share what works well on their islands and voice current challenges they face. Data from the consultation was taken to properly inform the development of the National Islands Plan and the provision of the Island Impact Assessment associated to it in the Act.

The goal is to island proof Scottish legislation and policy, fully taking into account effects on island communities.

Mrs Clarkson stressed  the Islands Act provides a policy focus on islands in Scotland that was not there before and should be seen as a laboratory for the development of good practices for rural communities across Scotland and elsewhere.

The next steps are to ensure island communities are included in and informed of progress towards delivery of the plan, she said, adding that island communities must be able to hold government to account and should challenge them if the plan is not delivering as expected.

Mrs Clarkson’s words were given an enthusiastic welcome by the audience. The Irish islanders said they would be happy to take the concept back to their own government.

Cora Keating  from the Clare Island Development Company, said:  ‘As our Irish government has failed so far to include proper island representation, we will now be able to present the Scottish model as a great one to emulate!’

Scottish Islands Federation chairperson Camille Dressler from Eigg, welcomed the opportunity to continue working alongside the Scottish Government’s Island team, SCELG at Strathclyde University and the various local authorities to design a way to measure outcomes and set up a governance group.

Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse said another important step forward had been taken on the historic journey for our islands that began with the passing of the Islands Act last year.

‘Since spring, we have visited 41 of Scotland’s islands, engaged online and consulted with stakeholders with an interest in islands in Scotland.

‘I hope this unparalleled level of engagement with islanders and stakeholders is captured in the proposed National Islands Plan and that it reflects the priorities identified by the people who live and work on Scotland’s islands.

‘The plan, and the objectives and commitments within it, are only part of the answer.  I now look forward to taking the plan forward and translating it into action. Through its development, Scotland is showing the rest of the world – as well as our own island communities – that islands and islanders are very important to our nation and that their voices are strong.’

The proposed National Islands Plan provides a framework for action in order to meaningfully improve outcomes for Scotland’s island communities.