Islands must be at the heart of the EU Cohesion Policy

To be an island should not be a problem but a pillar of development!

This was the strong message delivered by CPMR President  Vasco Cordeiro (and President of Azores Government)  on 9 March 2017.  He also said: “we must speak very clearly and very loudly about the islands’ needs.”

The CPMR Island Commission’s AGM 2017 was hosted on Gozo, Malta’s smaller island, and brought together island regions from the North to the South of Europe to look at the future of Cohesion Policy post-2020.

Islands must think globally and act locally

As an observer member, the European Small Islands Federation, represented by its chair, Camille Dressler, also chair of the Scottish Islands Federation,  was extremely pleased to see some very strong principles being reiterated by the  minister for Gozo in particular

  • Islands must think globally and act locally
  • One size does not dictate all nor add value to a nation.
  • It is important to bridge the gap between the EU and policies
  • It is crucial to get rid of bureaucratic barriers and help micro, small and medium size enterprises through changes to State Aid rules for islands and a rise in De minimis level at least in line with inflation.
  • The Cohesion Policy, as a fundamental pillar of EU construction, must act as a forward looking policy bringing EU citizens together
  • There must be a new way to look at shipping issues
  • There should be social policies for the islands
  • There should be special funding packages for the islands
  • To serve the islands adequately, there must be a place-based approach to the EU Development and Territorial Cohesion Policy.

 

The future of the EU and the islands

Eleni Marianou, the CPMR islands Commission secretary, was very clear on what had to be done in response to Mr Juncker’s White paper:

  • The CPMR needs to make a response to the EU White Paper and respond to the key challenges of competitiveness, investment and Territorial Cohesion.
  • It needs a strong voice and think of target audiences: EU institutions, National governments, EU Regions, Citizens and Young People.
  • Response includes making the case for EU cooperation based on CPMR principles of balanced Territorial Principles, solidarity between the EU and its regions, championing the position of regions in EU policy-making.
  • CPMR needs to prepare for a strong lobbying campaign prior to and during the EU parliamentary elections in 2018- 2019

 The islands’s access to the Single Market is not  equal to that of other regions.

The presentation by Ioannis Spillanis from the University of Aegean Island and Local development laboratory made the following points:

  • 3.4 %of EU population live on islands. Their access to the Single market is NOT equal to the access enjoyed by other parts of the EU.
  • Insularity has a negative aspect on businesses and people and Brexit will make it worse by reducing the number of islands in the EU and the overall funding share.
  • EU Sectoral policies are without differentiation
  • For the islands to realise their potential, EU policies need to include insularity clauses.
  • For this reason, a new island typology is needed. Current indicators are woefully inadequate: new indicators are required to describe the islands situation as the classification used in NUTS2 and NUTS3 is not good enough. (NUTS 3 islands are drowned in the NUTS2 areas)
  • To achieve the EU’s principles of Territorial Cohesion and Sustainability, the development model needs to be changed to include Equal opportunities for the islands and Green island policies.

Entreprise on islands  needs an  innovative approach from the EU

INSULEUR president Georgios Benetos showed how islands are left behind from the business point of view:

  • No economy of scale for the islands
  • Added costs of insularity need to be taken into account
  • Access to credit and finance is more complicated on islands

Fundamental changes in the way the EU could support the islands:

  • VAT should be lower as it is already on some islands (Corsica, Heligoland) whereas there is no VAT in the Faroe islands.
  • There should be a lower level of taxation for islands to help small and medium enterprises as well as micro-enterprises.

Islands need support as well as a Can Do approach

MEP Myriam Dalli  who is involved in supporting Blue Growth projects, agreed  that  islands do need support, and the way to get it was to demonstrate a Can Do approach.

Islands at the forefront of renewable revolution

The presentation by the Western Isles Council showed how the islands could become Energy Positive Islands by investing in their potential for renewables. Bornholm ‘s vice mayor presented the island Bright Green Future.  Kostas Komninos built on that concept by presenting the Smart Island Initiative to be launched in Brussels on 28 March.

Corsica to lead on post 2020 negotiations and insularity clause

Gilles Simeoni, President of the Executive Council of Corsica, was unanimously elected as President of the CPMR Islands Commission (CPMR-IC).

Following his election, President Simeoni said: “The months and years to come will be decisive not only for our islands but also for Europe, in the context of a very marked internal and international crisis”.

He identified the need to put islands at the heart of Cohesion Policy and suggested that an insularity clause should appear in transport, tax policies, waste management and energy.

From a purely Scottish Point of view, it was gratifying to discuss with Mr Simeoni how the Corsican team had come to Scotland to meet with Cal Mac to look at the way they are structured and with a view to replicate the C-Mal and Cal Mac model!

The CPMR IC position 

The CPMR Islands Commission, which represents all of Europe’s island regions, has reiterated that islands and outermost regions are unique because of their remoteness.

The Islands Commission has called for the termination of the traditional perception that islands are too different from one another to justify policy measures at EU level.

While debate on post-2020 policies is emerging, island regions across Europe have called for the EU to develop a strong post-2020 Cohesion Policy with a robust territorial dimension which would earmark specific funding to assist island and outermost regions reach the EU objectives.

The CPMR-IC would welcome a constructive dialogue with the European Commission in 2017 ahead of the legislative proposals for post-2020 Cohesion Policy.

Furthermore, it has urged the European Institutions to correct the glaring exclusion of islands from the legal recognition of different territorial typologies that is currently being debated.

Click here to access the speeches and presentations made at the Gozo 2017 AGM.

SG response to S.I.F. Brexit questions

SG responses to our questions

“ 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.”

Our questions to the Scottish Government

Policies

  • What policies if any will be put in place at UK and Scottish level to replace the Cohesion Policy framework?
  • If such policies are to be established, how would the necessary Structural Funds be established and at what level would they be administered?
  • How would Scotland feed into that process? How would the communities most affected be engaged to support development of policies behind the funds?
  • We are not convinced the UK government has an interest in developing a cohesion policy that will be comprehensive enough to take into account Scottish islands’ needs or issues facing any peripheral area in Scotland. Is there appetite within the Scottish Government to challenge the UK Government on the crucial issue of Cohesion Policy replacement?

SG Response:

The Scottish Government supports the principles and benefits that underpins EU membership it and is looking at ways to continue with it.  As expressed in the document “Scotland’s place in Europe”, the Scottish Government is committed to remain in the European Single Market, and this has been ratified by the Scottish Parliament’s vote on 17 January.

“ 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.”

Structural funds

  • How can existing levels of funding be protected?
  • What will be asked of the UK Government in this respect?
  • What funding guarantees can the Scottish government ask or provide?

SG response: The Scottish Government is very well aware of the issues and aware of the islands’ concerns. “We will do what we can to protect the islands’ interests and we intend to ask all these questions to the UK Government.”

EU Cooperation

  • What measures are the Scottish Government prepared to take to ensure that cooperation with other EU island regions can continue?

SG response: Re EU cooperation, the Scottish Government has shared concerns and intends to do what it can for this to continue.

Island Farming and crofting

  • 
 How can the Scottish government protect unique geographical origins and protected names, such as Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb? What about Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), which are of such importance for the islands?
  • How can free access to the European Single Market as proposed in “Scotland’s place in Europe” ensure agricultural goods and products are included?
  • What assurance can the Scottish Government give that any new policy framework for Scottish farmers and crofters (direct payments and rural development measures) will be adequately funded and will take into consideration the special situation of island agriculture?

SG response: Post-2020, the UK withdrawal from the EU will have implications for projects currently funded by the EU, and that will impact Scotland.

 The Scottish Government indicated it will 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.

Environment

  • How is the Scottish Government planning to ensure that environmental protection which is crucial to the sensitive and fragile environment of Scotland’s islands will be continued?
  • What about the 2020 goals and commitments to lowering carbon consumption, notably through production of renewable energy? Scotland has already exceeded its targets and has positioned it self as a model of innovative technology in Europe. But we are concerned that the Scottish islands lead in renewable energy production may be further eroded and hampered as shown already by the lack of support for the shovel ready projects of Remote Island Wind in the Northern and Western Isles. It is difficult to see how island communities will be able to maintain our lead in innovation and carbon reduction and invest in further renewable energy schemes in the future, if access to EU funds is blocked and the UK government continues to take retrograde steps on renewables.

Local authorities

  • EU laws and regulations impact on many Council services, such as waste, employment, health and safety, consumer protection and trading and environmental standards, all of which affect the islands.
  • How will the Scottish government ensure that regulatory power over such services will not be simply transferred from Brussels to an indifferent Westminster regime?

SG response: re Social policies and environment standards, our concern for Scotland is that these can be maintained, and for these reasons we will look for more devolved powers to come to Scotland.

It is more than likely that constitutional arrangements in the UK post-Brexit will have to change.

See SG paper, Scotland’s place in Europe

As Article 50 is triggered, see S.I.F. ‘s further thoughts on this here.

Scotland’s place in Europe: differentiation is the name of the game

Scotland’s place in Europe: Differentiation is the key issue, says Scottish Government

Scotland needs to protect its access to the Single Market

The Scottish Government is making the case for Scotland retaining access to the Single market.

Scotland’s Place in Europe, the paper produced by the Scottish Government last December clearly states Scotland’s interests would be best, though not comprehensively, secured by the continuation of the rights and freedoms Scottish and UK citizens currently enjoy as members of the European Single Market, along with the broader economic and social benefits which adhering to the free movement for persons, goods and capital it provides.

Short of full EU membership, the least worst outcome for the UK as a whole would be to retain full membership of the European Single Market through the European Economic Area, and to remain in the Customs Union.

Remaining in the EEA would mean being part of an existing structure for engagement, which would provide greater certainty for businesses and citizens. Given the many years, perhaps decades, of uncertainty involved in the pursuit of bespoke deals with the EU and other world trade partners, Scotland’s interests would be best served if the UK retained its membership of the EEA.

Differentiation is the name of the game

The paper’s proposals on differentiation offer a feasible way to reconcile what now appears to be the UK’s current position to exit the EU and the Single Market with the democratic wishes of a majority of the Scottish electorate and their elected politicians, and will best mitigate the risks that Brexit poses to the Scottish economic and social interests.

An acceptance of the need for, and the case for, differentiation would be the first step towards detailed, constructive discussion of these options and others. 


The proposal would require very detailed discussion and negotiation. But this is worth the effort as this option is capable of meeting Scotland’s requirements for continued trade within the European Single Market, adherence to the “four freedoms” and implementation of the range of “flanking” policies which support and complement the operation of the European Single Market, while providing a feasible structure for continued free trade and movement across the UK.

Building on existing relationship

The proposal also has the merit of complementing and building on the existing relationships.

For instance, the Faroe Islands, not an independent state, is currently exploring the possibility of joining EFTA – a possibility that is under consideration5. It is envisaged that Denmark would “sponsor” the Faroe Islands membership of EFTA. This shows that a sub-state may enter into international agreements. In similar circumstances, and with its own legal system and strong tadministrative capabilities, Scotland would be well placed to meet those requirements.

If the UK Government could seek to maintain its current EEA membership, through an application for EFTA membership, it could then  seek a territorial exemption so that this membership would only apply to Scotland (unless other devolved administrations also requested it).

There is precedent for territorial exemptions in the EFTA Agreement. For example, Svalbard, which forms part of Norway’s EFTA membership, has elements of the EFTA agreement dis-applied to recognise its unique geographic and trading position.  (It could be certainly argued that Scotland’s islands confers it  a unique geographical position, and this should certainly emphasised , suggests the Scottish Islands Federation).  Unlike the “reverse Greenland” proposition, this option would be consistent with the referendum outcome, since it would only require formal UK membership of the EEA, and not of the EU.

Scotland must be allowed to put forward the differentiation option

It appears increasingly unlikely that the UK Government will choose to retain membership of the European Single Market through the EEA, a decision which could cost the Scottish economy up to around £11 billion per year.

The Scotland in Europe paper states the Scottish government’s intention to use the mechanism of the Joint Ministerial Committee structure to:

  1. a)  “Explore – openly, constructively and in good faith – options for a differentiated solution for Scotland that enables us to remain in the EEA while the rest of the UK leaves.
  2. b) Include any necessary commitment in the Article 50 letter to pursue a differentiated solution for Scotland that enables Scotland to remain within the European Single Market as the rest of the UK leaves.
  3. c)  Discuss, negotiate in the appropriate forums, and conclude the practical solutions and shared administrative arrangements we would need to put in place to make a differentiated solution work effectively. 
”

Potentially more devolved powers to Scotland

Policy for devolved functions currently subject to EU law must be the responsibility of Scottish Parliament, states the Scotland in Europe paper.

Some of the major devolved areas that will be affected include:

a) Agriculture, food and drink, in areas covered by the EU Common Agricultural Policy and EU law on food and drink, animal health and welfare, plant health, seeds, potatoes, pesticides and genetically modified organisms.

  1. b) Fisheries, aquaculture and the marine environment, which are subject to the EU Common Fisheries Policy and marine environment and planning laws.

c) Environmental protection, including laws on pollution, waste and recycling.

d) Civil law, in areas such as family law where the institutional and administrative arrangements which currently shape Scottish and European co-operation risk being undermined by the UK leaving the EU.

  1. e) Criminal law and law enforcement, particularly in relation to information sharing and co-operation, the European Arrest Warrant, prisoner-transfer agreements and counter-terrorism measures.
  2. f)  Health, where for example protections afforded under the European Health Insurance Card scheme are at risk.
  3. g)  Higher education and research, where Scotland has benefited from EU mechanisms for collaboration and funding.

Conclusion

A significant increase in devolution is required to protect Scotland’s key interests, including delivering any differentiated arrangement with the EU. A consequence of leaving the EU cannot and must not be that power is further concentrated in the UK Government and at Westminster.

Download  Scotland’s Place in Europe by clicking here.

other useful links:

 

 

 

Overcoming Barriers to Economic Development – A Remote Island Perspective

Overcoming Barriers to Economic Development –            A Remote Island Perspective

A seminar organised by the Committee of Regions  and Shetland Island Council

9 September 2016, Lerwick, Shetland

Seminar objectives met

The objective of the seminar was  to create a greater un- derstanding of peripheral issues faced by islands and other remote communities and thus to draw evidence of the state of play of Cohesion in the EU.

Remote islands and communities have a range of structural circumstances that are difficult for policymakers to grasp unless they are experienced directly.

Presentations by Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles Councils  included an examination of the barriers and opportunities to pursue economic development strategies in their remote communities.

By meeting local experts and local community groups dealing with matters such as sustainable economic development, social inclusion, environmental protection, the seminar provided first-hand information on the enablers and barriers that such communities face in achieving sustainable economic development and Territorial Cohesion.

Islands have their own geographical specificities

In her presentation, Ilona Raugze from the ESPON EGTC explained how ESPON’s work on areas such as islands with geographical specificities brought a new understanding of their challenges.

The 2011 Euroisland study showed that

  • Islands have a below average connectivity
  • islands are below the European GDP average
  • economic convergence is slower
  • job and career opportunity are low
  • Low quality and high cost of services

Insularity has to be considered as a permanent, natural feature that affects negatively, directly and indirectly, islands’ attractiveness and subsequently places obstacles to their performance in terms of sustainable development. 

Insularity creates unequal opportunities between these territories and the rest of the European Union.

EU should stress on attractiveness parameters in order to address the different characteristics and costs of insularity by a differentiated policy.

The 2012 Geospec showed that  general characteristics for island territories were

  • Social capital – “closely-knit communities”
  • High value of natural capital
  • Preserved history and culture and biodiversity
  • Goods and services that do not receive market pricing (air purification, hazard prevention, groundwater recharge, bioremediation of waste and pollutants, recreation)
  • Renewable energies (hydropower, offshore wind, wave, tidal energies, biomass, solar energy)
  • Higher vulnerability to climate change (islands – sea level rise, storms, extreme temperatures, flooding)

The Geospec study concluded that recognising diversity was very important in policy making: an integrated place-based approach is needed since geographic specificity is only one of many factors influencing the performance of any given territory. Understanding specific processes to inform policy-making is more important than benchmarking. And the focus should be on potentials rather than on relative performance.

New policy recommendations emerged

1/ Recognising diversity in policy-making

  • 
European debates on cohesion and competitiveness need to focus on different models of growth and development rather than convergence or divergence of regional performance
  • Supporting development strategies that respect territorial potential is more valid than attaching particular funding to lines of geographic conditions

  2/ Recognising diversity in policy-making

  • 
European debates on cohesion and competitiveness need to focus on different models of growth and development rather than convergence or divergence of regional performance
  • Supporting development strategies that respect territorial potential is more valid than attaching particular funding lines to geographic conditions

3/ Fields of action

  • 
Policy measures should be tailored to local potentials and challenges. 
There should be a balance of measures to compensate for permanent handicaps and measures to promote the assets (“territorial capital”)

For example:

  • Seasonality in employment (tourism) to be integrated with other employment opportunities (multi-activity)
  • Overcoming physical remoteness by developing new ICT solutions to ensure accessibility of services, learning opportunities, e- democracy etc.
  • Investment in alternative energy sources
  • Encouraging young people to return after university studies
  • Branding, self-perception
  • Niche products (aquaculture specialised in seed mussels)

4/ Territorial cooperation practices need to show that territory matters

  • Dealing with geographic specificities is often about creating new types of connections between areas 
- Within regions
- Across regional and national boundaries
  • Compensating for imbalances in flows
  • Creating alliances through which actors can strengthen the 
robustness and resilience of their local communities
  • Gaining greater weight (critical mass) in economic and political systems dominated by main urban areas
  • Building of mutual trust and social capital

5/ Vision for the European Territory 2050

  • European visions for the future should not be territorially blind
  • Unleash regional diversity and endogenous development: 
- Targeted policy steps have to be successful to tackle issues faced by areas characterised by a specific permanent geographic or demographic handicap
  • A New Governance Approach:
- New planning and territorial cooperation initiatives are needed
  • Accessibility is regarded as a necessary condition for economic growth, having a direct impact on the attractiveness of regions for businesses and people

Need for new sustainability indicators 

ESIN has long argued that to overcome these barriers, the EU does need to understand the smaller island situation in greater details.

Both the chair of ESIN, Bengt Almkvist and the chair of S.I.F., Camille Dressler who attended the seminar stressed the need to use a more refined set of indicators that are used at present.

The ESPON Territorial Impact Assessment (TIA)  tool presented by Mrs Raugze was suggested as a simplified, evidence-based procedure and a user-friendly methodology combining expert knowledge gathered in a workshop with an Excel tool and standardised indicators that could show possible impacts in maps at NUTS 2 level.

Participants all agreed on the need for an improved framework for dialogue between the European, national, regional and local levels, making it possible to reflect unique patterns of opportunity and challenges in each territory. This was felt to be particularly relevant to the island situation.

This framework required

  • A general method for the assessment of local situations
  • Support to the formulation of development models adapted to 
local conditions
  • Better access to data of local development conditions
  • Improved quantitative and qualitative analyses of local situations
  • Alternative methods for analyses at the NUTS 2 and 3 levels
  • “Smarter” indicators going beyond the current focus on GDP

Through presentations and discussions with local actors, the seminar reached its goal of informing the ongoing assessment of the application of the EU objective of Territorial Cohesion as well as the thinking on the future shape of EU programmes and the future of EU Cohesion policy.

What matters most to the Islands – the S.I.F. Survey results

Scotland’s Island Communities: Meeting the Challenges

A survey by the Scottish Islands Federation

August 2016

  1. Foreword

Almost 80% of the UK’s inhabited islands are found in Scotland. There are 93 and they stretch from North Ayrshire, Argyll and Bute, Highland, to the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland. An asset to Scotland and with enormous potential the islands are often held back by a range of challenges, some in common with the rest of rural Scotland and some intrinsic to their small island situation.

We wanted to capture the current thinking from island communities themselves about the main issues affecting them and how they have responded or could respond.

The survey is the beginning of a process that will be used primarily as a foundation on which the work of S.I.F. will be based. It provides a valid resource which has been endorsed by the participants and we would like to thank the 72 groups that took part and all the networks that helped to promote it.

  1. Methodology & sample

A survey was circulated to all the community councils, development trusts , community companies and trusts that we could find contact details for – we aimed to reach the islands with a population of 10 or more (63 islands). A total of 72 responses were received reaching 34 of the 63 islands and giving coverage of 54%.

Figure 1. Islands & survey responses

Local Authority Inhabited islands Total population Islands with pop of 10 or more No of survey responses
Argyll & Bute 23 15,105 15 25
North Ayrshire 3 6,036 2 1
Highland 14 10,349 6 15
Eilean Siar 14 27,684 11 16
Orkney 21 21,349 15 10
Shetland 16 23,167 14 3
  1. The islands – population

The islands have a combined population of 103,000 and while the overall population grew by 4% between 2001 and 2011, 32% of the islands showed a population decline. The majority of these were amongst the smaller islands with populations less than 50[1].

A similar picture from our survey; 34% felt the population was declining and the majority of these were the smaller islands.

The real concern highlighted was the shifting demographics with population becoming increasingly skewed towards older people.

Population change and demographics: 

Growing 34%  Declining 34% Stable 31%

Balanced age group 28% /  Ageing 72%

  1. The biggest challenges

Using a list of common challenges[2] that hinder island development and sustainability people were asked to attach a level of importance to each. Here are the issues listed in %  of importance.

  • Employment 43%
  • Broadband coverage 40%
  • Transport links 39%
  • Availability of affordable housing  34%
  • Freight/carriage  31%
  • higher cost of living 30%
  • Limited voice in  local national 29%
  • Small population/population 28%
  • access to social and elderly care 27%
  • access to health care 26%
  • Mobile coverage 26%
  • Access to local services 24%
  • transport costs 23%
  • Access to primary /secondary school 18%
  • Access to further education 16%
  • Availability of land or crofts 15%

Many of these challenges are interconnected and it became clear that they are all considered important. This feedback is closely aligned with the draft Manifesto for Rural Scotland[3] which, based on the collective views of a much larger representation of rural communities, includes each of these challenges as needs that must be addressed.

Each island has its own unique circumstances and theses are reflected in how the challenges were prioritised:

Figure 4. The top 5 per region in order of priority

Argyll & Bute Highland Eilean Siar Orkney Shetland N Ayrshire
Transport Health care Employment Broadband Sample too small Sample too small
Broadband Housing Broadband Employment
Employment Employment Freight Transport
Housing Elderly/Social care Voice Small pop
Freight Voice Housing Elderly/Social care
  1. What could make the most difference?

Consideration was given to the opportunities that could make a difference to the sustainability of island communities:

  • Digital connectivity: 39%
  • Affordable housing 37%
  • Transport 33%
  • Community land asset ownership 28%
  • Business and enterprise 25%
  • health and social care 25%
  • Marine development 25%
  • Food and agriculture 25%
  • Renewables 21%
  • tourism development 20%
  • heritage and culture 19%
  • Energy efficiency 14%

Amongst the top issues are broadband and transport. These were also highlighted at the recent EU Committee of the Regions Conference in Shetland which S.I.F. attended.

‘One of the key issues of the seminar was connection to high-speed broadband, while transport and an ageing population were also highlighted’[4].

  1. The islands – voice and local leadership

The majority of island communities that took part in the survey have a local plan in place. Some have already made great strides in tackling barriers. 47% owned assets and were able to generate some income for local reinvestment.

Island communities themselves are best placed to understand the barriers and solutions and also have the potential to become key drivers in island sustainable development. However, many felt that the support, investment and voice needed for this to happen on a larger scale, isn’t currently there. This is a point endorsed by the Scottish Community Alliance in its report ‘Local People Leading’ which calls for a much stronger community sector.

Communities themselves are often not engaged in the decision making that affects them. Only 36% answered our question on engagement in key consultations.

Some of the obstacles

‘Lack of income means we cannot employ labour so everything has to be done by volunteers.’

‘Funding and access to expertise to progress our priorities.’

‘Volunteer fatigue, staff support, no secure income at present’

‘Planning and other centralised decision making processes do not allow for the individual island view to be taken fully into consideration’.

‘Rural environments suffer at the expense of regional towns and cities, for example, Inverness’.

  • 54% listed a lack of funding and/or the burden placed on volunteers as obstacles that hinder their effectiveness and sustainability.
  • The survey highlighted that some communities sense that support, investment and decision making is becoming more centralised making it increasingly difficult to develop good jobs, housing, services, infrastructure and enterprise in the remote areas.
  • The survey also suggests that communities themselves are often not engaged in the decision making that affects them – responses indicate that only 36% of the communities that took park in the survey have responded to key consultations affecting the islands.

Percentage of respondents engaged in recent consultations.

  • transport review 23%
  • Islands Bill 21%
  • National Marine Plan 10%

These issues around community empowerment, support and engagement are echoed by communities across Scotland and are highlighted by the Scottish Community Alliance[5] in its report ‘Local People Leading’.

This remoteness from decision-making is exacerbated by island geography and governance and is felt by small islands across Europe. The European Small Islands Federation (ESIN)[6] is championing the case for developing new ‘island sustainability indicators’ to rectify the lack of support and investment allocated to small islands as a result of their current ‘invisibility’ at EU level.

  1. Working together

The survey indicated a desire for networking events, regular island newsletter, project visits and an annual island event. Topics of interest are prioritised below:

Topics of most interest for networking and information exchange

  • Transport 62%
  • Renewables 59%
  • Affordable housing: 57%
  • Tourism 49%
  • Heritage and culture 40%
  • Health and Social care 36%
  • Marine development 36%
  • Sustainable fishing 23%
  1. Conclusions

Using the survey as a starting point our aim was to gather the views of island communities themselves about the main issues affecting the islands and how they could be overcome. 72 groups from across 34 individual islands took part and their feedback indicates the following:

  1. There is an urgent need to find ways of encouraging more young people to live on the islands as well as better ways of looking after an increasingly ageing population.

2 . A common list of challenges hinder island development and sustainability. The top four are felt to be:

Employment Broadband Transport Affordable Housing

3. Some of these challenges are in common with the rest of rural Scotland, some are unique to the islands and some are more keenly felt on the islands due to their unique circumstances: there is a need to understand the small island situation better and recognise that it is different.

4. Opportunities reflect the obstacles and the findings call for strategic action on all the big issues, the top three being:

Broadband Affordable Housing Transport

5. Island communities themselves are best placed to understand the barriers and solutions and also have the potential to become key drivers in local sustainable development: there is a need for a stronger voice for island communities, more engagement in decision making and more local governance.

6. There is an appetite for communities to work together across the islands to share ideas and learn from each other.

  1. Next steps

S.I.F. is the only organisation in Scotland with an island-specific remit and we work to promote, publicise and advance the interests of Scotland’s islands.

Using the survey feedback as the foundation S.I.F. has identified the following objectives to take forward:

  • Promoting innovative sustainable projects and inter-island collaboration.
  • Building a representative voice on matters specific to the islands
  • Using that voice to inform and influence policy at all levels of government.
  • Connecting island communities to share experience, ideas and expertise.

We will take forward actions in our strategy to deliver these objectives in the next year.

Kirsty MacColl

Development Officer

Scottish Islands Federation

kirsty@scottish-islands-federation.co.uk

www.scottish-islands-federation.co.uk

Appendix

Comments from the communities that took part in the survey:

Planning and other centralised decision making processes do not allow for the individual island view to be taken fully into consideration. An island is treated in the same way as another area of mainland without appropriate autonomy and local input

We only have a doctor on the island 2 hours a week and otherwise have to go 6 miles on the next island to the surgery. Currently this has been a locum filled position for almost a year.

In the usual way, Government displays a lack of understanding of the implications of island living, with the debacle of the Calmac ferry service as a prime example. Argyll & Bute Council cuts and the resultant service reductions sees a decline in the overall infrastructure of the island. This despite the fact that 8 distilleries make an enormous contribution to the revenue which increases year-on-year.

Improved local democracy. Islands in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland have their own councils. Islay is part of Argyll & Bute the local authority and feels very much on the edge of their decision making and governance. Islay does not have its own councillor but a part of three, currently one councillor lives on Islay but does not solely represent the island. There is a large disconnect between council officials (off the island) and local population. Transport links are paramount for Islay to operate from population, tourism and industry (farming as well as whisky). The service currently received from CalMac does not meet the island’s needs and is impacting negatively on all these areas. Without a robust ferry service and booking system tourists may decide not to visit. The calculation for the roads budget is determined by the population and takes no account of the heavy lorries required by the whisky industry or agriculture.

Due to a lack of affordable housing, many young people leave the island (or are unable to return once having completed uni etc). As a result we have a limited work force on the island and a reduced skill pool.

All of the above are extremely important to island’s future growth and sustainability

Ageing population and population decline with so many problems preventing regeneration with new jobs, housing and poor transport links mean that we are fighting a losing battle at present. the opening of the Atlantic Islands Centre is beginning to make a difference – low-level and part-time jobs. Loss of the Postbus 3 years ago means there is no public transport for the 3 mile run from each village to the ferry. Ferry service is reasonable, but not conducive to attracting families in an age when teenagers need access to activities after school in the evenings.

Many of these issues are interlinked, or there’s at least some sort of chicken/egg scenario. Especially with housing and employment, you can’t employ people if there isn’t suitable housing in the area, and if there isn’t enough housing, people will be driven away limiting job creation and business opportunities. Most of our islands do not boast a high availability of private rented sector housing. The tourist season and self-catering accommodation contribute to this issue. In terms of social housing, it is very difficult to demonstrate need for further development in small communities as those in housing need are unlikely to register on waiting lists; turnover tends to be lower.

All these issues are of the utmost for fragile, remote and rural communities. They all hinder development and sustainability to some degree. Various schemes and pilots have been run and these go someway to tackling the very real issues.

Access to child-care is an issue on this island. Fuel poverty is a big issue on the island. The “removal” of renewable energy subsidies is an issue.

There is a need for all-year employment opportunities, for pre-school childcare facilities, for a home for the historical society and for greater provision of cultural and artistic activities.

transport links are crucial for community yet this is an area where Council is making cuts.

General feeling is that we need to grow population (e.g. double or treble over next 5 to 15 years), create new housing opportunities, and jobs and general sustainability of the community. We are working on it and have made some significant positive progress.

With such low population numbers, the viability of the small isles communities is constantly being challenged. Broadband has hugely facilitated visitor access and tourism is now the main industry on the islands

Your list above is too simplistic and assumes or implies that the categories are separate. They are not. The usual problems of jobs/houses that have always beset remote rural communities have been overtaken in recent years by declining basic services, particularly health care. If we had 100 more people on the island we would all have better health care because increase in allocated resources would confer better services to all, so is it a population “problem” or a health care “problem”? We could get more people here if there were more jobs, so is it an employment “problem”? New people won’t come to work on an island with failing health care and no suitable housing, so is it back to being a housing or health care “problem”? Unfortunately, centralised budgeting leads to a demand for this kind of listing of problems, which is not helpful. We have had £25m invested in various infrastructure projects on the island in the recent 10 years or so, but if NHS Highland withdraw our primary health care and out of hours care then the population will just move away (apart from a hard core) and all that investment (not from NHS, so they don’t care) will be wasted. The national policies and procedures of many spending arms of government simply don’t work at these sorts of levels and locations – you can’t move costs to customers by taking away the district nurse and asking people to drive to A&E when those people live on an island – there is no A&E we can drive to when the ferry doesn’t run.

Access to 24/7 HEALTH CARE is top of the list of priorities to sustain population levels, economic development and recreational/leisure activities. We need affordable housing, so people who come to work here (mostly in the tourist industry) can find somewhere to live. Without this sustainable economic development is not going to happen. The state of the roads needs to be addressed; ‘Calum’s road’ in the North of the island has become a major attraction over recent years but the road that takes you there is in a deplorable state. Our roads are falling apart due to lack of maintenance of drains and bridges, remedial filling of potholes is totally inadequate. Transport costs – RET has made a difference to the tourist industry, but none whatsoever to local traffic and the cost of carriage of goods. In my opinion locals (i.e.commuters) should have access to a season pass and the cost of commercial goods on the ferry should be greatly reduced. We pay 3% extra for goods, a cost that is reflected in the retail price of food in our shop. Some of the above are presently satisfactory, but vital to retain, such as our local primary school, and access to secondary education on Skye. Broadband speeds are ‘reasonable’ at present, but should be brought and kept in line with the rest of the country. Same for mobile phone coverage.

Housing – vital to arrest population decline and falling school roll. Staffin in a National Scenic Area which restricts development and threatens sustainability of Staffin. Stable, all-year round employment is badly needed in our district to retain our population.

Rural environments suffer at the expense of regional towns and cities, for example, Inverness. It is perceived that funding is more directed at city areas, and less attention to local rural issues, including Transport, again, for example the resumption of air services to Skye.

have not ticked a least important as they are all key to our lifestyle in one way or another. There are many items listed which will have a major influence in what we can do to address our priorities. Broadband and mobile coverage is important for business, Health and social care and education and farming users as well as our emergency services communications. Living on an island transport is again critical to all aspects and freight costs are linked to this. Being an island in a predominantly mainland local authority gives challenges for balanced representation and the recent boundaries commission review did nothing to improve the position due to the guidelines being defined for the mainland majority with no recognition of the adverse impact to the rural communities.

Employment and housing for young folk is essential

It is costly to live in any of the smaller islands but even more expensive on the 2 smaller satellite islands of this particular parish. The 2 smaller islands also have the issue of access to services that are ALL situated on the largest island of the 3. As the population has seriously declined in the last 3 years through deaths or folk moving away, they have not been replaced by in-migration and the above factors make it less likely that new folk will move here.

All of the above are important priorities in most rural communities but are of higher priority in Island communities.

RET was supposed to reduce travel costs to the mainland but this did not work for residents…was an I,prove net for ‘one off’ visitors but we lost our 6 ticket reduction in price …. Reduced fares for locals taking cars on ferries would help along with a reliable ferry service. At present, middle of summer, we have a reduced service which is choc a bloc due to a ferry breakdown and no contingency service from CalMac. Emergency hospital appointments (among others) are compromised & jeapardised. This does not encourage families to move here.

There is a requirement for infrastructure to allow elderly care and child care services to be delivered in remote areas. All resources for housing are being targeted at Stornoway and surrounding areas. The more remote communities are not getting the same support.

 

  1. Recognise that by definition small island communities are different even from remote rural mainland communities, and certainly from connected mainland communities. Then, if Government is happy to support such communities, 2. devolve real budgets for basic services – primary health care, social care, primary education, roads – to Community Councils and let them design and manage provision of services within those budgets.

[1] Scotland’s Census 2011

[2] Based on the 2007 Interreg IIIC project ‘Meeting the Challenges’

[3] Manifesto for Rural Scotland by Scottish Rural Action

[4] Key topics of discussion at a the EU Committee of the Regions Conference ‘Overcoming the Barriers to Economic Development, a Remote Island Perspective’

[5] Scottish Community Alliance is a coalition of 19 community-based networks, including S.I.F.

[6] ESIN aims to help small island communities remain viable through informing and influencing policy and by fostering co-operation between the islands. S.I.F. was one of its founding members in 2001.

Scotland’s Place in Europe, what now?

Ignored and sidelined: Scotland’s position on a differentiated solution

“ 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.

Devolved matters now under threat

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.

Will the devolved legislatures’ views be considered ?

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.

Island Farming and crofting, Environment, Renewable Energy,  EU cooperation?

 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.

Independence? The only way forward to safeguard the Scottish islands’ economic well-being

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.

 

 

Smart Island Initiative is live

The Smart Island Initiative is live!

 

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The Smart Islands Initiative advocates for a holistic development approach one that “derives from insularity, the condition that forces island authorities to focus on how to ensure the optimal use and management of their resources and infrastructures, very often within island boundaries, in order to support sustainable and equitable economic development that fully taps into islands’ local potential (geography, natural and human resources, products)”

#NEWS 1: We have a website http://www.smartislandsinitiative.eu, FB and Twitter account. Please spread the news!!!

#NEWS 2: The highlight of the Smart Island Declaration event on the 28 March in Brussels is that we expect European Commissioner for Climate and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete to open the Smart Islands Declaration and address the signing ceremony!

#VERY IMPORTANT . We now have 200 organisations and Local authorities throughout the EU who have signed up to the Initiative  and plan to attend the Brussels event. This is good news as the  European Commission is promoting a programme for sustainable energy on islands to be announced by the end of 2017. This means funds for islands!!!

In this context, the Commission sees the Smart Island Initiative in a very positive way because this is 1) European and 2) bottom-up. 1+2 are key ingredients for the Commission programme to be successful. The synergies are there, waiting to be exploited!

#SMART ISLAND INITIATIVE SCOTLAND. Most Local Authorities with islands responsibilities have signed up to the initiative: Highland, Argyll and Bute, North Ayrshire have send letters of support with Shetland Islands Council leading the way by signing the Declaration itself! Island Development trusts that have benefited from European funding for their renewable energy scheme like the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust have also send letters of support.  Likewise,  Renewable Energy Academic bodies  Strathclyde University and NGOs like Community Energy Scotland have also given their support alongside the Scottish Islands Federation and the European Islands Federation (ESIN) . 

Islands: Part of the solution to Europe’s 2030 Climate and Energy Challenges

Islands: Part of the solution to Europe’s 2030 Climate and Energy Challenges

As Europe moves towards the implementation of its 2030 climate and energy agenda and the broader Energy Union objectives, the European electricity sector fully recognises that islands will play an important role in ensuring their success. In this context EURELECTRIC organised a Workshop entitled “Islands: Part of the Solution to the 2030 Climate and Energy Challenges” in Brussels on 20 February 2017.

During the workshop, EURELECTRIC launched a report entitled “Towards an Energy Transition on Europe’s Islands” which highlights the energy situation of European islands. The report is an attempt to synthesise some of the flagship projects pioneered on several islands and showcasing sustainable solutions to the challenge of advancing energy transition efforts on islands. It also proposes how the positive experience from these projects and more systematised effort towards similar projects could be further streamlined to address the unique challenges faced by islands’ energy systems.

The focus of the workshop would be to present some of these success stories but also engage relevant stakeholders in a debate over how to take forward the positive but isolated impact of these projects in a more coordinated manner. In the age of rapid energy system decentralisation, renewables deployment, system smartification and digitalisation, solutions offering answers to challenges on islands are of value to decentralisation issues faced on the mainland as well. The workshop is a first step towards identifying areas requiring further European action as well as opportunities to islands as test-beds to technologies and services, which may prove key to unlocking energy challenges on the mainland.

Check Euroelectric for upcoming events!

S.I.F. Briefing: Scottish islands and the impact of Brexit

Scottish Islands and the impact of Brexit

A briefing paper by the Scottish Islands Federation

On 18 January 2017, Camille Dressler S.I.F. chair met with members of the Scotland’s Place in Europe team at Victoria Quay.  This is what she said: ‘The main concern for the Scottish Islands Federation is how the move away from CAP and the EU Cohesion Policy with its associated structural funds will be managed to safeguard the fragile economies of the islands and avoid real risks of depopulation.  ‘

Importance of the EU Cohesion Policy for the islands

  1. The EU Cohesion Policy’s stated aim is to improve the economic well-being of regions in the EU and also to moderate regional disparities. The policy is geared towards making regions more competitive, fostering economic growth and creating new jobs. It also has a role to play addressing important wider challenges such as climate change, sustainable energy supply and globalisation.
  1. More than one third of the EU budget is 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 geographical challenges faced by islands.
  1. In the current 2014–2020 funding period, Cohesion Funds have been allocated between regions that are deemed to be a) “more developed” (with GDP per capita over 90% of the EU average), b) “transition” (between 75% and 90%), and c)”less developed” (less than 75%).
  1. With a GDP of 75 to 90% of the EU average, the Highlands and Islands have ‘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.

The European Structural Funds

  1. Through European Structural Funds, the EU Cohesion policy has provided vital funding for Scottish island communities and our neighbouring regions.
  1. In the programming period, 2007-13, Scotland received approximately £680m in Structural funds. About 800 national and local projects were supported. Major strategic projects funded include the Shetland Fibre optic broadband cable, the Lerwick District heating scheme, the Scalpay and Eriskay bridges, and the Loch Carnan wind farm in the Outer Hebrides, as well as harbours and other key infrastructure developments. In Highland, the piers and ferry for the Small Isles were built with the help of EU funds, whilst the electrification of Eigg would not have been possible without £764 000 of ERDF. Flagship cultural projects supported include the Mareel Cultural Centre in Lerwick, the Orkney Theatre, the Scapa Flow Trail, Scotland’s Islands Cultural Programme, Garrenin Museum and Village and improvements to the Callanish Visitor Centre. Structural funds supported training at Calanas Wool Mill in Uist, social enterprise and leadership training throughout the islands, and have delivered benefits for many islanders. Islands have benefited from strategic investment in the University of the Highlands and Islands and the Scottish Investment Bank Loan Fund has helped SMEs across the area.
  1. For the 2014-2020 programming period, increased levels of investment were secured. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) are investing €476m and €464m respectively, including support for a Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme. Some community infrastructure projects on islands have already benefited, notably including Luing’s award-winning Atlantic Islands Centre.
  1. European structural funds have had a positive and progressive impact on small businesses and local communities across Scotland, but can deliver special benefits to islands through their inclusiveness, helping to maintain and enhance the quality of island life.

The Scottish Rural Development Programme:

  1. The Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) channels millions of Euros into the rural economy to help create vibrant rural communities, protect and enhance the environment, encourage rural businesses and support the farming industry to grow and modernise.
  1. Funding for a diverse range of projects may be accessed by individuals, businesses and groups, through grant schemes. A number of these are specifically directed at crofters and farmers, such as the Croft House Grant Scheme, the Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme, the Small Farms Grant Scheme, the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme, The Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme, the Food Processing, Marketing and Co-operation Fund, Young Entrants Scheme and Young Farmers start up funds.
  1. LEADER funding has also been invaluable for the islands, providing a ‘bottom up’ partnership-based approach to rural development.LEADER has supported multi-sectoral, community-based development and helped individuals, communities and businesses come together to design and implement Local Development Strategies. In doing so, LEADER has helped build social as well as economic capital on many Scottish islands.
  1. From 2008, in Argyll and Bute alone, LEADER has funded over £6m to 200 projects, levering over £15m to the area in match funding, thus providing a substantial cash injection to communities in the region including the islands of Mull, Arran & Cumbrae.
  1. There has been real uncertainty over the latest round of LEADER funding (2014-2020). The programme got off the ground very late and is now at risk of being devalued during Brexit negotiations.

Common Agriculture Policy

  1. Support payments derived from the CAP are hugely significant to the viability of Scottish agriculture as the vast majority of farms and crofts remain highly dependent on ‘Pillar 1 direct support payments’. (63% of farmers’ income). Agri-developments are jointly funded by the EU and the Scottish Government under ‘Pillar 2’ schemes.
  1. Maintaining communities through farming and crofting is more significant in Scotland than it is in other parts of the UK and especially so on most Scottish islands.
  2. A small island farm on the Isle of Muck, with 630 ewes and 50 breeding cows on approximately 400 HA, faces challenges typical of other islands in terms of high costs of importing feed (£475 for a lorry’s ferry ticket) and an additional £600 payable for exporting a lorry load of livestock, compared to mainland farmers.
  1. With only a limited number of large agricultural units in Scotland able to show a net profit without agricultural support mechanisms, the fear is that additional costs facing islands could be disastrous in their absence.
  1. The EU’s convergence target of minimum payments of €196 per hectare by 2020 would need to be Scotland’s minimum allocation of direct support funding to deliver parity for equivalent enterprises on similar land types – and so establish a more even playing field, as stated by NFU Scotland. In the context of the UK government’s apparent lack of commitment to agriculture and food security, the fight to retain minimum payments is vital if agriculture in the islands is to remain viable.
  1. Most agricultural activity in the West Highland and Islands centres around production of sheep and cattle. The UK sheep industry is substantially dependent on exports, with something like 60% of UK lamb consumed in mainland Europe.
  2. The nightmare scenario for Scottish beef and lamb producers is that they may have to compete with subsidised European producers, with diminished access to markets and less support. (possible imposed tariff of 20% depending on options). Brexit could potentially decimate Scottish agriculture, and especially island producers, in the absence of other means of financial support coming on stream.

    Local Authorities serving the islands

  3. In spite of budgetary and policy restrictions imposed by central government, some local authorities have managed to pursue economic development strategies using European structural funds. It is difficult to see how they can continue managing economic expansion without access to such fundMuch legislation affecting local government and requiring local government implementation originates in Brussels. Social and environmental protection, health and consumer protection, working time directives, the transfer of undertakings, procurement and state aid, transport policies, and rural and maritime policies are among the many areas affected by the EU.

 

  1. The high quality of the natural environment is of particular importance to islands, in terms of food production, tourism and the local quality of life. Scottish and European sustainability agendas generally accord well with island interests whereas the UK government’s approach to environmental priorities can tend to be at odds with insular perspectives.
  1. Many islanders fear that Brexit will reduce investment of resources in environmental concerns and bring adverse consequences for Scotland’s islands, especially with diminishing resources available to local authorities. Because of their fragile natural and social environment, the islands will be more vulnerable to a potential hollowing out of environmental and social protection.

EU wide collaboration

  1. The Scottish Islands collaborate with their European counterparts in policy development at various levels. The larger islands are involved in the Island Commission through the Committee for Peripheral and Maritime Regions with local authorities also benefiting from INTERREG cooperation and other opportunities to exchange knowledge and cross-fertilize ideas and actions. Smaller islands are involved too, through existing networks such as the European Small Islands Federation (ESIN). Together they have succeeded in pushing for better recognition of the island situation at European level, culminating in the Island Declaration of February 2016. Years of collaboration between European islands through Islenet, IslePact, and more recently SMILEGOV (Smart Island Governance) have demonstrated that islands can usefully host projects and share valuable transferable knowledge on smart and efficient resource and infrastructure management. The Smart Islands Declaration, scheduled to be launched in spring 2017, is asking for the evident potential of islands as leaders in innovation and renewable energy production to be recognized and resourced by the EU.
  1. There is a real concern about loss of knowledge exchange and collaboration opportunities for islands across Europe on issues of common concern, notably including better management of energy and resources. Scotland’s own Zero Waste island flagship project on Bute would not have been possible without European support and inspiration. Over many years Bute has addressed key themes of waste management and recycling, composting and local food production, community energy, low carbon transport and more. Much of this work has been supported by European funding and in turn, inspired other European islands, creating employment and learning opportunities in the process.

What will happen to the islands post-Brexit?

  1. Leaving the EU means that Scotland’s islands will no longer benefit from established funding avenues and exciting collaboration opportunities. European money has supported rural development on Scottish Islands to a far greater extent than UK government in recent years. Risks to islands’ agriculture and other key sectors are of real concern, with fears urban priorities may now overshadow the needs of Scotland’s more pristine periphery.
  1. Our island economies will need continuing support if our primary industries are to fulfill their potential in the global market place for high quality, value added food & drink. Crucially, Social Enterprise will also require support to plug gaps left in island services by dispassionate market forces.
  1. The overarching danger is that de-population will resume or worsen, leaving populations on islands less able to sustain viable livelihoods.
  1. Some EU funds – such as Horizon 2020 – may be available through partnership and ‘buying in’ either as the UK or Scotland. However, there are no guarantees that islanders will continue to benefit from Europe in the ways we have in recent decades.

31.The proposal published by the Scottish Government in “Scotland’s place in Europe” presents options which are solutions to many issues – in terms of trade, freedom of movement, protections for workers, and environmental standards. It makes an eloquent case for Scotland’s continuing access to the Single Market. However it does not address in full the replacement of those EU funds, which have been so fundamental to sustaining so many of our island communities.

Some islanders’ comments

32.”Islanders are now fearful of their prospects if access to EU structural funds is removed.” Harris

“We would like to ask if there is anything to replace LEADER funding in the future.” Unst

“My job as island development officer is part funded by the EU, how will this continue?” Rum

“The depopulation that’s happened out in these islands – and it’s happened worst in Harris than anywhere in the Outer Hebrides – will just continue to increase.” Harris

“What continued direct support for active farmers and crofters will there be, as this will remain vital to sustain communities?” Eigg

“How will we continue to work with our EU island colleagues on common themes and projects?”

“We will lose out and be left behind.” Tiree

“A substantial number of schemes would never have taken place without EU funding, especially the infrastructure projects which have been completed throughout the Western Isles over the past twenty years or more. Objective One and LEADER funding have financed a large variety of projects, including small renewable schemes.” Carloway, Lewis

“Mull is very dependent on the farming industry, what will happen now?” Mull

“What will happen to replace the current level of EU funding following Brexit? We have concerns about disparities between different regions following BrexitWhat will happen to farming subsidies, fishing quotas, transport/boat service?” Orkney

“The age and condition of the boats (Orkney Ferries) is a source of great concern. The cost of taking a vehicle on the ferry is prohibitive for many. Without EU funding to support improvements, what will happen? Without pressure and funding from the EU, the outer isles of Orkney and elsewhere in Scotland will be left to decline, with the rate of depopulation increasing on all but the largest isles.” Sanday, Orkney.

Our questions to the Scottish Government

  1. “EU funding has got to be replaced to look after these peripheral areas by either the Scottish Government or Westminster”, says Angus Campbell, Leader of Comhairle nan Eileanan Siar. Our questions for the Scottish Government in their current negotiations echo the sentiments of this statement.
  • Policies

34.What policies if any will be put in place at UK and Scottish level to replace the Cohesion Policy framework?

  1. If such policies are to be established, how would the necessary Structural Funds be established and at what level would they be administered?
  1. How would Scotland feed into that process? How would the communities most affected be engaged to support development of policies behind the funds?
  1. We are not convinced the UK government has an interest in developing a cohesion policy that will be comprehensive enough to take into account Scottish islands’ needs or issues facing any peripheral area in Scotland. Is there appetite within the Scottish Government to challenge the UK Government on the crucial issue of Cohesion Policy replacement?
  • Structural funds
  1. How can existing levels of funding be protected?
  1. What will be asked of the UK Government in this respect?
  1. What funding guarantees can the Scottish government ask or provide?
  • EU Cooperation
  1. What measures are the Scottish Government prepared to take to ensure that cooperation with other EU island regions can continue?
  • Island Farming and crofting

42. How can the Scottish government protect unique geographical origins and protected names, such as Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb? What about Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), which are of such importance for the islands?

  1. How can free access to the European Single Market as proposed in “Scotland’s place in Europe” ensure agricultural goods and products are included?
  2. What assurance can the Scottish Government give that any new policy framework for Scottish farmers and crofters (direct payments and rural development measures) will be adequately funded and will take into consideration the special situation of island agriculture?
  • Environment
  1. How is the Scottish Government planning to ensure that environmental protection which is crucial to the sensitive and fragile environment of Scotland’s islands will be continued?
  1. What about the 2020 goals and commitments to lowering carbon consumption, notably through production of renewable energy? Scotland has already exceeded its targets and has positioned it self as a model of innovative technology in Europe. But we are concerned that the Scottish islands lead in renewable energy production may be further eroded and hampered as shown already by the lack of support for the shovel ready projects of Remote Island Wind in the Northern and Western Isles. It is difficult to see how island communities will be able to maintain our lead in innovation and carbon reduction and invest in further renewable energy schemes in the future, if access to EU funds is blocked and the UK government continues to take retrograde steps on renewables.
  • Local authorities
  1. EU laws and regulations impact on many Council services, such as waste, employment, health and safety, consumer protection and trading and environmental standards, all of which affect the islands.
  1. How will the Scottish government ensure that regulatory power over such services will not be simply transferred from Brussels to an indifferent Westminster regime?
  • Conclusion
  1. The prospect of Scotland being forced to leave the EU against its will is one which will starve the islands of a crucial economic and social support and potentially jeopardize our fragile and precious environments. This has the potential to hamper the islands’ development and aspirations for decades to come.
  1. On behalf of island communities, the Scottish Islands Federation urges the Scottish Government to consider the particularly serious risks to the economies of islands and our future development prospects posed by this perilous situation. We exhort the Scottish Government to explore all possible avenues, including access to the Single Market, to ensure that these risks are minimized.
  1. In particular, we would like to ask the Scottish Government to consider initiating negotiations on the possibility of setting an Island Convention on the model of the Alpine Convention. Should such a cooperation mechanism be set up before Article 50 negotiations are concluded, this might make it easier for the Scottish Islands to continue their involvement in the move to reduce island carbon emissions and also to benefit from any EU funding streams dedicated to such a programme across all EU island regions. This possibility was strongly suggested by DG Energy at the COP22 in Marrakech in November 2016 and is tabled to be discussed in the spring of 2017 during the Malta presidency of the EU.

Scottish Islands are famously blessed with relatively easy access to a high proportion of Europe’s natural energy resource potential, in trms of summer sunshine hours, winter wind and waves, and year round tides and currents. It is well recognised also that islands may serve as valuable proving grounds and test beds for emergent energy technologies, and also, modes of governance, with our vibrant, visionary and resilient island communities. In this light, S.I.F. remains hopeful that appropriately targeted investment in renewable energy and research and development will yet enable Scottish Islands to prosper as real assets to the Scottish nation, and we like to think, to Europe. Meanwhile, many islanders seriously fear that the UK government may recognise us only as peripheral liabilities post Brexit. We trust the Scottish Government will not let this happen.

 

Future of the Crown Estate Consultation

Future of the Crown Estate: Consultation for shaping the Crown Estate in Scotland.

A 12 week consultation on the long term framework for the devolved management of the Crown Estate in Scotland was announced today during a visit to Rhu Marina, Helensburgh.

Devolution of the management and revenue of the Crown Estate in Scotland through the Scotland Act 2016 provides an opportunity to increase the benefits to Scotland and local communities.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham said:

“Control over the management and resources of the Crown Estate in Scotland should rest with the people of Scotland and this is a genuine opportunity to change the fabric of Scottish Society.

“This consultation is a once in a lifetime opportunity to help shape the future management of The Crown Estate in Scotland. Good Management of our land, marine environment and other natural resources is essential for Scotland’s future prosperity.

“I would encourage all those interested to respond to the consultation and help us to assume our new powers in a way which creates solutions which meet Scotland’s needs and interests.”

Amanda Bryan, Shadow Chairing Member of Crown Estate Scotland said:

“From the 1st of April decisions about both the day to day management and the future of the estate will be taken in Scotland which is a huge step forward. I along with the staff of the new interim management body will seek to manage the estate responsibly, delivering benefits to our partners, tenants and communities and ensuring that it remains in good order for the next phase.”

Background

The Scottish Government is taking a phased approach on devolution of the management of the Crown Estate. The consultation launched today will inform the second phase of devolution.

The consultation on the proposals will run until 29 March Details can be found on the Scottish Government website at: https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/crown-estate-strategy-unit/long-term-management-of-the-crown-estate

The Scotland Act 2016 introduced a new era for the management of Crown assets in Scotland. The Crown Estate in Scotland includes a diverse portfolio of property, rights and interests that influence many aspects of rural and coastal life in Scotland. The value of Crown Estate property in Scotland was £271.8 million and gross annual revenue was £14 million in 2015/16.

Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management) is being established as a Public Corporation. It will take on its asset management role from 1 April 2017 subject to the completion of transfer of powers at Westminster. The Scottish Government is working to safeguard a smooth transfer for staff and ensure that the interim body provides stability and continuity of service to those who rely on existing Crown Estate leases or services as the management responsibilities are devolved to Scotland, particularly during the time needed for establishing a new permanent framework.

Rhu Marina is owned by The Crown Estate and leased to Quay Marinas, who operate the facility 24 hours a day.

info from http://news.gov.scot/news/future-of-the-crown-estate

Cost of living on islands still 40% higher

New HIE study updates rural cost of living in Scotland.

In 2013, Highlands and Islands Enterprise in partnership with a range of other public agencies commissioned the Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) to establish a minimum income standard for remote rural Scotland including highlands and islands.

Discussions were centered on what was common and what was different in a minimum household ‘basket’ of goods and services in these communities, compared with other parts of the UK.

In 2016, HIE commissioned the CRSP to update the research.

Original study showed costs were up by 10-40%

The 2013 study found that the budgets required by households to achieve a minimum acceptable standard of living in remote rural Scotland were typically 10- 40% higher than elsewhere in the UK. For households in more remote island locations, these additional costs could exceed 40%.

The premiums were most modest for pensioners and greatest for single people and families with dependent children, and were driven by:

  • The higher prices that households were required to pay for food, clothes and household goods.
  • Considerably higher household fuel bills, influenced by climate and fuel sources.
  • The longer distances that people have to routinely travel, particularly to work.

Update shows no improvements in costs for rural areas.

The main findings of the updated report are as follows:

  •  In 2016, a minimum acceptable standard of living in remote rural Scotland typically requires between a tenth and a third more household spending than in urban parts of the UK.
  •  This picture is similar to 2013, although the lower price of petrol and diesel has significantly reduced the additional cost for people having to travel long distances, particularly regular travel for work.
  •   The additional costs come from a range of sources. In particular, the costs of travelling, heating one’s home and paying for goods and their delivery are much higher for many residents of the areas under review, especially those in the remotest areas.

    Conclusions

The update was asked to consider these costs are being and could addressed through national and regional policy:

  • Despite some easing of costs, the continuing high cost of living in remote rural Scotland, and its exposure to any renewed rise of energy costs, makes their mitigation as urgent as ever. A framework for addressing these costs needs to consider issues around energy costs, shopping costs and travel costs in a joined up way, which takes account of the influence of local infrastructure and the development of jobs and communities.
  • There is scope for some reduction on home energy costs, but mainstream energy efficiency measures have limited effect in the particular circumstances of remote rural Scotland. The Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force needs to identify particular ways in which energy efficiency improvements and better functioning markets and charging structures can be designed to meet the unique circumstances of remote rural Scotland.
  •   Retail costs could potentially go down if delivery networks are improved and charges reduced. Imaginative solutions are needed that use technology to join up delivery networks, and aim to reduce charges that are higher than they need to be.
  •  The best way to get travel costs down is for people to reduce the need to travel long distances for work. This requires a focus on developing more jobs that are both local and reasonably paid, which in turn requires the fostering of new skills in the workforce and the development of external markets.
  •  An improved infrastructure is needed to support these developments. In particular, the roll-out of high speed broadband is crucial, both for work and other purposes. Since a reliable network reaching all households is likely to be elusive in the medium term, the potential for having community hubs with good broadband and other amenities needs to be explored.
  •   All these improvements will work better to the extent that the population of the area can be maintained and boosted, especially among young adults. This requires in particular a focus on developing young people’s skills and opportunities, and on improving amenities such as mobile signal which are particularly important to them.

THE VOICE OF COMMUNITY ORGANISATIONS ON SCOTTISH ISLANDS