Catch up with news from SIF and the islands in our latest member bulletin- download here.
Catch up with news from SIF and the islands in our latest member bulletin- download here.
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.
4th Atlantic Stakeholder Platform Conference, Glasgow
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:
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.
Each year a stakeholder conference facilitates networking, helps identify project partners and scope funding opportunities. As current chair of the Atlantic Strategy Group, the UK hosted this 4th conference in Glasgow which focussed on the 4th priority ‘Regeneration across Generations: socially inclusive sustainable development of the European Atlantic seaboard’.
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:
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:
Islands (Scotland) Bill – call for evidence
Draft 31 August 2017
We believe that the duty to publish a national islands plan will be a positive milestone. The commitment to ensuring that the progress of the plan is monitored on an annual basis should increase responsibility and transparency, sustain momentum and provide assurance that the unique situation of islands maintains a high profile.
The National Islands Plan will set out the main objectives and strategy in relation to improving outcomes for island communities:
We very much welcome the commitment to the principle of island-proofing as a duty to have regard to island communities. We feel it should be a legal duty and mandatory throughout government. Such a duty should encompass the principles articulated in Articles 170 and 174 of the Lisbon Treaty, which acknowledge the permanent geographical constraints of island territories and their difficulties in accessing the market.
The Islands Bill is the perfect opportunity to address problems by allowing greater flexibility to meet specific island needs but how it should work in practice is difficult to visualise without examples.
Points we consider important include:
We agree that the current system is unfair – for instance, Cumbrae and Arran are not represented by their own member because there is a perception that their combined population is too small. We therefore agree that there should be the flexibility to have 1 or 2 member wards.
However the challenge of finding a representative and meeting the administrative requirements for islands with a small population that struggle with representation – should not be overlooked in the planning of mechanisms and resources needed to deliver.
We do agree with the power and feel that island councils should have more power and influence over and benefit from marine development as should island communities themselves and we would therefore welcome a real commitment to subsidiarity.
There should be provision to enable the revenue from Crown Estate marine assets to be invested in the islands – island communities depend on the surrounding shore and sea for many needs, yet currently they have no influence over development and have to pay the Crown to be able to use their own asset.
We believe aquaculture should be included. While valuable jobs can be created, the impact should also be considered via island-proofing.
The regulation should be more flexible to enable influence over decisions outwith 12 nautical miles where there is shore-based activity and therefore an impact on the islands.
It is not quite clear how the Bill will actually address the challenges, realise the potential and empower island communities. How will it support sustainable, permanent communities on inhabited islands?
The Plan sets the vision and the impact assessments will consider the effect on islands. Will it be backed by investment and action that will tackle the big issues such as fuel poverty, cost of living, health provision, service retention, lack of housing for young people, population decline, connectivity? What will actually be done to create the level playing field and parity that is needed for islands to flourish?
While the challenges of island life are recognised, there is often a presumption held that islanders should just get on with it as it is their own choice to live on an island. People living on the islands accept that there will never be the number or choice of things available to them as in an urban area but strongly believe that they should expect an equal level of service for the essential things in life such as medical treatment, education, power, fuel, waste, connectivity and that the over-cost of island life due to transport should never be underestimated and always be taken into account.
1/ Thomas Fisher, Young Start Project Leader
Mentor Uist and Barra — supporting young people aged 16 to 24
Cothrom Ltd, 01878 700918 (direct) or 700910
There is little I would disagree with in your draft response to the Islands Bill.
My first main point relates to an overall framework of thinking about our islands. Yes, the bill has been introduced to address the huge challenges of island life. Just as important is to recognise the huge assets that islands have (land, community, people, enterprise, social enterprises stronger on the islands than on the mainland, etc.). I would prefer a response that began with these assets, and then said that the bill needs to be about releasing the potential of these assets. At one point you clearly do this:
“There should be provision to enable the revenue from Crown Estate marine assets to be invested in the islands – island communities depend on the surrounding shore and sea for many needs, yet currently they have no influence over development and have to pay the Crown to be able to use their own asset“.
We have to pay to use our own assets, rather than being able to use them ourselves for our own economic and community benefit! This is surely the next step for community ownership of land.
So, much of island proofing is actually about releasing the constraints that hold back our islands: the crown estate; the electricity charging framework that prices electricity according to distance from urban centre and thus makes the abundant renewable energy assets uneconomic; the lack of connectivity, preventing people running internet based businesses from choosing to settle on wonderful islands with all their potential (as a related example, look at how our North Uist medical practice is advertising for GPs: http://ruralgp.com/2017/08/vacancy-north-uist-scottish-hebrides-gp/).
My second main point is to reinforce the democratic deficit. Island communities have shown beyond any doubt that they are very capable of governing themselves (more than two thirds of people in the Outer Hebrides living on community owned land, Eigg, Gigha, Westray, etc.) We need more control and influence on anything that affects our island life. There should be a presumption in the bill that any new policies should increase our control and influence.
Here are a few additional comments:
Yes, the bill should include a focus on utilities and other commercial bodies. These have such a huge influence on island economies (e.g. fuel costs, renewables, broadband, etc.). Island proofing, for example, would not allow OFGEM’s current pricing regime for electricity generation (I realise that OFGEM is British wide, but it is a striking example).
I would also like to see organisations, not just BT and others, but including charities and social enterprises, that take government funding to deliver a Scottish wide service demonstrate how they are doing this. The number of websites of such organisations I have been to that claim they serve all of Scotland, but when you call them up, they say delivering the service, or even coming to visit the islands, is too expensive. On their side, the Scottish government would have to recognise that additional costs to make the service available to remote islands are legitimate, and must not disadvantage bids in competitive tendering.
Recognising the additional costs of delivering services to remote islands with highly dispersed populations is of course essential for all services, public, private and third sector.
The Scottish Islands Federation will be hosting the European Small Islands Federation AGM and annual Conference in partnership with the Orkney International Science Festival from 11 to 13 September 2017.
The event will include a study visit featuring the culture and archeology of the Orkney with a discussion on island product branding on Monday 11, a study visit to Shapinsay on Tuesday 12 with a smaller group heading to North Ronaldsay, and 3 presentations on the theme of greening the islands as part of the Orkney International Science Festival on Wednesday 13 September. Of particular importance to the Scottish Islands will be the last session, featuring Brendan Devlin, special advisor to DG Energy, who will present the Clean Energy EU Islands strategy agreed on in Malta last May. Kostas Komninos from Greece, Elvira Laneborg from Sweden and Mark Hull from Scotland will also present initiatives showing how European islands ‘ smart approach to Energy from transport to renewables production places them as leaders in sustainable development.
Ireland, France, Sweden, Estonia, Finland and Sweden islands will be represented at the event, with delegates from Eigg, Cumbrae, Luing, Bute, Mull, Barra, Fetlar and several Orkney island Development trusts attending as well.
You can see the full programme here.
An important part of the S.I.F. AGM will be for the delegates to look over the S.I.F. draft response, add to it if necessary and approve it for submission to the Scottish Government in time for the 25 September deadline.
The S.I.F. AGM will take place at 18.45 at the Kirkwall Hotel, Harbour St, Kirkwall, KW15 1LE
With 2 board members standing down , but up for re-election, S.I.F. is looking for up to 4 more directors to take the organisation forward. Help us make the island voice even stronger!
No we haven’t, says S.I.F. Chair Camille Dressler, and there has been so far no evidence that any thought has been devoted to that part of EU policy which has been fundamental in ensuring island sustainable development throughout the EU. Are there any thought of developing an equivalent Policy? What happens to Article 174 of th Lisbon Treaty which underpins much of the principles that have informed the Cohesion Policy? Is that going to be repatriated? We fear it won’t as the UK government paid precious little attention to it when it was an integral part of the EU!
Post 2020 Cohesion Policy has been the subject of much discussion in the past few months at many different levels. Yet, unsurprisingly, there has been little about it in the media. So with this concern in mind, these are the questions we asked MPs Ian Blackford and Stephen Gethins, and now they want to discuss this further!
In the context of the UK Brexit negociations, the Scottish Islands Federation is extremely concerned that the Joint Ministerial Committee approach agreed on by the UK Government has thus far produced no tangible results with regards to the differentiated solution proposed by the Scottish Government, which would have secured access to the Single Market for Scotland’s islands.
Scottish Islands Federation’s members have expressed dismay and worry regarding the move away from the EU Cohesion Policy with its associated structural funds and the CAP for the islands.
We would therefore like to stress how important the EU Cohesion Policy has been for the islands. Its stated aim being to improve the economic well-being of regions in the EU and also to moderate regional disparities, it has been geared towards making regions more competitive, fostering economic growth and creating new jobs. It also has had an important role to play addressing important wider challenges such as climate change, sustainable energy supply and globalisation.
More than one third of the EU budget is currently devoted to this policy, which aims to remove economic, social and territorial disparities across the EU. Crucially, through Article 174 of the Lisbon Treaty, the policy recognizes inherent and permanent geographical challenges faced by islands.
With a GDP of 75 to 90% of the EU average, the Highlands and Islands have had ‘transitional region’ status. This has enabled the area to benefit from a whole suite of European funds targeted at social and community projects, infrastructure, businesses, partnerships and future proofing measures, including investment in renewable energy projects.
This spring, both the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee have published recommendations on the issues of island entrepreneurship and the situation of islands in the current and future EU regional policy post-2020.
Islands should be a particular focus of post-2020 cohesion policy, by adding islands as an additional category in the EU Regulation on territorial typologies
Set up a one-stop shop for the islands (“Island Desk”) within the DG REGIO at the European Commission
Establish a system of operating assistance for island businesses to offset higher transport costs, by updating guidelines on regional aid and the GBER
Set up a programme to stimulate innovation processes in island economies, make use of local resources, provide support for the use of renewable energies, handle waste, manage water, promote cultural and natural heritage, and establish a circular economy
All island regions and island Member States to be considered as less developed regions in post-2020 cohesion policy
Include insularity clauses in all key EU legislation, to take specific island circumstances into account
Last May, the EU commission issued the Clean Energy EU islands declaration informed by the European Parliament’s resolution on the special situation of islands (2015/3014(RSP) stressing the European islands’ potential to contribute to strengthening sustainable development in the Union, which will promote and support tailor-made clean energy transitions for islands.
We are therefore very clear about what the islands of Scotland will miss out on through Brexit.
In this context, we are seeking assurances and clarifications as to how the transition from EU funding to UK funding will be managed to safeguard the fragile economies of the islands and avoid real risks of depopulation, and what measures is the UK government prepared to take to mitigate the loss of opportunities currently being developed within the EU for the islands.
The response by Mr Davis to the differentiated solution proposed by the UK government leads to us to fear that such fundamental aspects of structural development policy, as represented by the EU territorial Cohesion Policy, are being ignored or side-lined through their rejection of Scotland’s proposed access to the Single Market.
This gives the Scottish Islands little confidence in the UK Government’s understanding of issues concerning the islands’ economic survival once EU funding will cease.
We would like in particular to seek clarity on if and how the recognition of the islands’ peripheral and fragile status by the Lisbon Treaty will be translated into UK law post-Brexit.
We seek your response as to the following questions which we submit are fundamental to the continual growth and development of our island region post-Brexit:
We look forward to receiving your response on how you as an MP will seek to mitigate the effects of a move away from the EU Territorial Cohesion policy. This would have the potential to starve the islands of crucial economic and social support, jeopardize their fragile and precious environment and hamper their development and aspirations for decades to come.
Furthermore, we welcome any queries or discussions you may wish to undertake with us to ensure the success of future policies, which will directly affect the Scottish island regions as well as other islands in the UK.
Danish Island food producer Laurids Sig Christensen thinks that island produce need to be have their own internationally recognised brand:”Island Specialties® ”
Islands often have unique natural conditions of food production and these conditions potentially result in unique products and unique qualities in products. Therefore, food producers on small islands have unique conditions to comply with the terroir concept and unique conditions to contribute to diversification in food qualities and methods of food production adapted to the nature of these locations.
Island communities generally have strong identity, and they have a strong appeal to the outside world in many – if not all countries. The reason why a terroir brand was developed in Denmark and the perspective of developing it into an internationally recognized brand was about developing collective impact in marketing. See how the Danes did it here.
A large number of island brands already exists, some of which are very strong. Developing collective impact in marketing is not an alternative to these marketing platforms – the perspective is to develop synergy between island brands already existing. To develop collective impact in marketing of products from small island communities requires that there is a general understanding and acceptance of the value of doing so.
“First of all, it would be good to discuss and ultimately develop definitions of what a small island is in a European context’ proposes Laurids. ” What is the size limits of a small island and what is the size limits of small island communities? It might be difficult to reach a consensus for all countries in Europe but if we could reach common definitions for a substantial number of countries it would still be worth the effort!”
The next step might be to discuss perspectives and interest in concerted marketing efforts, i.e. presentation on international food exhibitions, targeting specific markets such as Japan and the USA.
Small island food producers in Denmark did go to Japan, and the interest in Japan was extraordinary. However, more strength is needed to penetrate and actually get our products on the Japanese market.
Together we can do it better than individually!
Laurids wants to hear from you. You can contact him through us at email@example.com
“ The things we stand to lose though leaving the EU membership and the Single Market are all things that we value and we do not want to lose them, so we will look very carefully at all the options presented in order to keep as many of the benefits of EU membership as we can.”
This was the general response to our questions last January.
Article 50 has been triggered and the UK Government is still ignoring the statements in the Scottish Government’s paper three months after its publication.
Michael Russell’s demand to have Scotland’s proposals for a differentiated solution included in the letter sent to Donald Tusk was equally ignored.
The report by the Commons Committee on Exiting the EU concluded that the Prime Minister will attempt to use Brexit to rewrite the devolution settlement and reserve the power to legislate in future on Scottish agriculture payments, fisheries quota and renewable energy targets.
The Scottish Government’s responses to the S.I.F. ‘s questions are therefore now rendered utterly meaningless.
The Commons Committee on Exiting the EU recommended that the views of the Weslh, Scottish and Norther Irish Legislatures regarding their option papers should be considered as a matter of urgency.
Considering that the White Paper for the Great Repeal Bill wants to bring back all the powers vested in the EU to Westminster, to ensure the effective functioning of the UK Single market, its effect will be to breach the founding principles of devolution of the 1998 Scotland Act.
It thus looks increasingly unlikely that the devolved legislatures’ views will be considered to the extent wished by the Scottish Government in any case.
The Scottish government will be unlikely to be in a position to negociate or protect the islands’ interests as it stated it would.
It is very hard to see how the Scottish Government will now be able to negotiate with the UK Government to ensure that future financial support for initiatives that currently receive European funds is allocated on a fair and equitable basis across the UK. Looking for more devolved powers to come to Scotland is going to be very difficult if not impossible.
S.I.F.’ will continue their dialogue with Michael Russell MSP and his team as the Brexit negotiations unfold.
But since it is very unlikely that the UK government will change its position, it does increasingly appear that the only way forward to safeguard the islands’ economy and realise their renewable energy potential is to pursue independence and stay withing the EU.
FREE training in coaching led by international coaching practitioner Chris Pienaar
April 25th and 26th,
10 to 4:30 @ Cothrom,
Ormicleit, South Uist
To book your place, contact: 01878 700910 firstname.lastname@example.org