The Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee has now considered Stage 2 of the Bill and has agreed several amendments brought forward by MSP’s and Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport & the Islands. A summary of where things are is outlined below:
‘In Spring 2013, following the announcement that there would be a Scottish Independence Referendum, Scotland’s three island authorities – Orkney, Shetland and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar – formed a joint constitutional working group. This culminated in the launch of the Our Islands Our Future campaign in June 2013, and subsequent commitments from both the Scottish and UK Governments to better support and empower Scotland’s island communities’ – Islands (Scotland) Bill Executive Summary.
The Islands (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 9 June 2017 with 5 main provisions:
• National Islands Plan to set out government strategy for improving outcomes for island communities.
• Duties placed on Scottish Ministers and public bodies to have due regard to island communities – this will include carrying out island impact assessments.
• Protecting the parliamentary constituency boundary of Na h-Eileanan an Iar.
• Exceptions to the rules around three or four-member wards.
• Licensing scheme for works in or under the sea in the coastal waters around islands up to 12 nautical miles.
Read the full summary and timeline here.
Passing a new law in Scotland involves three stages:
Stage 1: parliament considers the main principles behind the bill, what it is trying to do and how it will do it. Public consultation is carried out and evidence collected. The Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee was appointed as the lead committee to scrutinise the Islands Bill and Stage 1 was completed on 8 February 2018.
Stage 2: there is an opportunity at Stage 2 for amendments to the bill to be lodged for consideration. Several proposed amendments to the Islands Bill were considered by the Committee on the 21 March and 28 March. Among the amendments agreed were considerations given to uninhabited islands, biosecurity around invasive species, including linguistic heritage, listing public authorities and involvement of island authorities and communities in the National Islands Plan. Discussion around the Plan highlighted the need to take action on key issues around broadband, ferries, fuel poverty and population decline. Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands brought forward the following amendment that the National Islands Plan should:
Improving outcomes for island communities and include improving and promoting:
(a) sustainable economic development,
(b) health and wellbeing, and
(c) community empowerment.
Stage 3: this will involve the final considerations and is the last opportunity for MSP’s to lodge amendments. Amendments will be considered followed by Decision Time on whether the Bill should be passed.
After that: once passed, a final version of the Bill will be published and there will be a four-week period when it can be challenged. After this the Presiding Officer will submit the Bill to The Queen for Royal Assent. It will then become an Act of the Scottish Parliament and part of the law of Scotland.