Highlands & Islands

Views sought on proposed islands bill

Isle of Lewis

Public views are being sought on the Scottish government's proposed legislation to give Scotland's islanders more power and protection.

The Islands (Scotland) Bill aims to offer greater powers to island local authorities, including the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.

The bill includes giving island councils powers over activities on and around their coastlines.

MSPs have asked for views from individuals and organisations.

The Scottish Parliament's rural economy and connectivity committee is to gather public comments and take evidence at Holyrood over the next six months.

Orkney Islands Council and Highland Council welcomed the government's announcement earlier this month of the introduction of the bill.

Orkney along with Western Isles Council - Comhairle nan Eilean Siar - and Shetland Islands Council have been campaigning for several years for greater powers.

Highland Council has responsibility for public services on several islands, including the Isle of Skye.

What is proposed in the bill?

Image copyright BBC/Timeline Films
  • Creation of a National Islands Plan
  • Statutory protection for the Western Isles' Na h-Eileanan an Iar Scottish parliamentary constituency boundary
  • Greater flexibility around councillor representation within island communities
  • Extended powers to island councils in relation to marine licensing. This involves the potential extension of the provisions of the Orkney and Zetland County Council Acts of 1974, to enable Scottish minsters to establish a scheme requiring that activities up to 12 nautical miles from an island are licensed by the appropriate local authority

Committee convener Edward Mountain said: "The committee's call for views is an opportunity for people with direct experience of living, working and voting on the islands to influence their future by voicing their views and opinions on the issues that matter to them.

"The Scottish government's bill covers significant issues, such as helping ensure that whenever new legislation is introduced, the economic growth and sustainability of Scotland's islands will be an important factor and providing a power for Scottish ministers to create a marine licensing scheme for coastal waters.

"Its ambitious aim is to provide a more strategic approach that enables Scotland's islands to continue to flourish.

"It is crucial the committee thoroughly scrutinises these proposals to ensure they fully meet the needs of our island communities."

The deadline for submitting evidence to the committee is 25 September.

The committee will produce a report on the bill after it has concluded its evidence taking in autumn.

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