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Islands Bill must reflect residents' priorities, MSPs report

24 January 2018

The real needs of Scotland's island communities must be reflected in the bill designed to ensure Government focus on them, a Holyrood committee has reported.

In its stage 1 report on the Islands (Scotland) Bill, the Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee endorses the bill but says it is vital that the actual priorities of Islanders are reflected in the National Islands Plan that will follow the bill.

To that end, it calls on the Scottish Government to adopt the widest possible consultation on the development of the National Islands Plan, and cautions that island impact assessments should not become a tick box exercise.

To support local decision making it wants to see local authority level plans to be created that sit under the National Islands Plan.

Without attempting to assess retrospectively all current legislation, it recommends a provision in the bill to carry out an impact assessment where evidence suggests the existing law has a significant detrimental impact on the islands.

Committee convener Edward Mountain MSP commented: "This bill is an enabling piece of legislation that will provide for future action by the Scottish Government. However, the committee believes that the Scottish Government will need to manage the expectations of islanders who may expect more immediate, tangible outcomes to be delivered.

"I am pleased to be part of a committee that sees the importance of engaging directly with rural and island communities. It was vital that our report on the bill properly reflected the views and experiences of islanders. That is why we visited Mull, Lewis, Harris and Orkney and held video conferences with other islands.

"A key recommendation from us is that the Scottish Government must likewise ensure its National Islands Plan, when brought forward, also properly reflects the actual priorities of islanders."

Click here to view the committee's report.

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