Formally introduced on 9 June 2017, the Bill is for an Act of the Scottish Parliament to make provision for a national islands plan; to impose duties in relation to island communities on certain public authorities; to make provision about the electoral representation of island communities; and to establish a licensing scheme in respect of marine development adjacent to islands.
Stage 1 of the process has included a call for evidence from the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. Written evidence was submitted by a range of groups and individuals including SIF and you can see our submission here – thank you to everyone that contributed.
Our SIF Chair, Camille, was invited to take part in an evidence session with the Committee – you can watch it here.
The Committee also went out and about around the islands to hold direct discussion with islanders and you can read the feedback here.
If the potential of the blue economy is to be realised, strategy must be based on local need and local communities must be key stakeholders – this was the message from Jerry Lundy, Committee of the Regions.
The Atlantic Action Plan was adopted in 2013 with the aim of revitalising the marine economy in its five partner nations – France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the UK. The Plan has four priorities:
To promote entrepreneurship and innovation.
To protect, secure and enhance the marine and coastal environment.
To improve accessibility and connectivity.
To create a socially inclusive and sustainable model of regional development.
The Action Plan was an invitation to the private sector, the research community, regional and national public bodies and others to develop projects based around these four priorities. A Support Team was set up to offer guidance, project development support and to help find funding for projects.
The lack of dedicated funding was highlighted as a key challenge – trying to identify the most appropriate funding stream and then going through the complex and lengthy application process has made it very difficult for small-scale innovative projects to get involved.
Some of the projects coming through are fantastic and it’s well worth having a look through the 17 that were nominated for awards to see if any are relevant to your own community. Projects involving Scotland include:
Cool Route: increasing marine tourism and its reach into local economies along a new route from Cork to Tromsø in Western Norway.
Circular Ocean:tackling marine pollution by looking at ways to use discarded fishing nets including in 3D printing, waste water treatment and reinforcing building material.
TAPAS: Tools for Assessment and Planning of Aquaculture Sustainability.
ATLAS: developing new tools to better explore the Atlantic ecosystem on a trans-Atlantic scale.
Smart Fish: development of a new electronic tag to monitor seafood from harvest to plate.
At the event we heard about the Bio Base North West Europe project that has brought together a range of partners to provide financial, technological, training, networking and political support to enterprises innovating in biobased products and processes – one project that has been helped to get off the ground is Celtic Renewables which is developing next generation biofuel using waste from malt whisky production.
One project achieved a special award for reaching so many people across different communities and generations. Set up by a small group of women, the IAIA Association of Solidarity Needlework (IAIA means granny in Spanish) is a non-profit organisation offering “Yarn Therapy” in nursing homes, senior centres, schools etc. Families donate balls of wool and a network of over 400 volunteers knit, crochet or use other needlework to make blankets and items that are then donated to refugees. In 2015/16 the group decided to knit for a blue cause: to protect our marine environment and celebrate the World Oceans Day – 300 blue blankets, 3,000 scarves and 1,000 endangered knitted animals were produced and showed in schools, day care centres, museums and at the Ministry.
Workshops attended at the event included:
Year of Scotland’s Coast and Water 2020: marine tourism has been identified as a key growth area and a range of projects were highlighted – Cool Route, West Coast Marine Tourism Collaboration led by Argyll & the Isles Tourism Co-operative, development of a Maritime Skills course at Argyll College UHI, Sail West Project and the Hebridean Whale Trail. The difficulty of balancing growing tourism with local infrastructure and conservation was highlighted – ‘identity mapping’ was a technique used in Holland to put the local community in control of development.
Community-led Local Development: opportunities for fisheries communities and co-operation: Scotland’s whole coast is covered by Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) but very few projects are coming forward for funding – only 33 in Scotland compared to Ireland’s 190. Information for each country can be found from the support unit FARNET.
‘Small Islands are “the agents of change” that can be trusted to make the low carbon revolution happen in Europe’ declared Brendan Devlin, Special Adviser to DG Energy, at our 2017 European Small Islands Federation annual conference.
Over 10 to 12 September, 32 islanders from 13 European countries gathered in Orkney to discuss and learn from good practice on a range of topics including island produce and branding, tourism, sustainable transport, renewable energy and smart islands.
Discussion on island branding was facilitated by Douglas Watson of Connect Local and we learned of the journey behind the growing success of Orkney’s strong branding.
‘coming to Orkney and discovering the Orkney food and produce brand together with the Danish Island speciality brand was an inspiration. As a small island food producer myself, I am pleased that we are looking to introduce a similar designation for the producers in our small European islands. We have established a working group and intend to have an islands brand up and running in the near future. This will identify authentic island products that meet agreed criteria and will help with marketing and of course additional employment in the food and drink sectors on the islands’ – Máirtín Ó Méalóid of Oileán Chléire (Development Co-operative of Cape Clear Island) and Vice Chair of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann (The Irish Islands Federation).
Amongst other highlights were learning visits to the small islands of Shapinsay and North Ronaldsay. The community-owned wind turbine on Shapinsay generates around £90,000 each year for island projects and subsidises a community mini bus, electric taxi and an out of hours ferry service to give islanders more flexibility in their travel to and from the Orkney mainland.
The final day saw the ESIN AGM, followed by an afternoon of talks around the themes of Smart Islands and the Clean Energy for EU Islands programme.
Best of all, was the quality of the exchanges between islanders from all corners of Europe. Everyone found they had much in common in terms of opportunities and challenges and all came away feeling inspired, energised and very impressed with Orkney.
‘We will be taking the AGM and debate to Brussels next year and in the meantime, we will continue to push for the needs of the smaller islands of Europe to be recognised and addressed, especially in the context of the Territorial Cohesion Policy post 2020 and Brexit’ – Camille Dressler, Chair of SIF and ESIN.
The event was hosted by the Scottish Islands Federation in collaboration with the Orkney International Science Festival. SIF members from Fetlar, Bute, Cumbrae, Barra, Eigg, Luing, Mull, Rowsay, Egilsay & Wyre, Stronsay and Mull were able to take part thanks to support from the Community Learning Exchange which contributed to the learning visit to Shapinsay.
You can read the report from the learning visit and some of the presentations below: