Towards a future post-brexit regional policy for Scotland

 Post Brexit regional UK policy: is there one?

In many respects EU Policies have acted as a proxy for a UK regional policy.

Through the EU Territorial Cohesion Policy,  European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) have been used to support economic development in Scotland both at regional and local level.

EU Regional Policy and funding have had a major impact in terms of reducing social and economic disparities. They have been a significant driver in transforming the economic and social wellbeing of the Highlands & Islands with £1.5 b invested up to now.

But after exiting the EU, UK regions including the Highlands and Islands will no longer be able to access the ESIF funds.

Post Brexit, the UK Government have announced that the so called Shared Prosperity Fund will replace ESIF funds. However, there is little clarity or detail supplied on the way the Shared prosperity fund will operate and on which the basis the funds will be distributed.

Why there should be one?

Estimates are that the Shared Prosperity Fund may only have 2% devoted to the rural economy, so the proportion of what will actually come to Scotland is still unknown.

The question is  whether it can be shared equally and fairly if there are no regional policy at UK and Scottish Government level.

The Scottish Rural Parliament made a clear statement on Brexit, calling for a clear and direct UK and Scottish Government’s commitment to equality for rural people, places and enterprise in Scotland, as well as reassurance through clear commitments that the UK and Scottish Government will continue to meet the needs of rural people, places and enterprises.
Read the Scottish Rural Parliament statement here.

Scotland’s Islands and Highland deserve         a coherent regional policy and support

The policy paper by HIEP – Highland and Islands European Partnership- sets out a vision for a future regional policy for Scotland that would address these concerns:

  • A future Regional Policy needs to empower the region to contribute to UK and Scottish economic growth, while recognising permanent and long term challenges.
  •  A future Regional Policy  development and delivery needs to be led by devolved administrations and regional stakeholders
  • A future regional policy needs a long term strategic focus, maximising regional economic potential that is sustainable and inclusive.
The HIEP paper calls for a need to recognise and respond to regional disparity.
  • A future regional policy should focus on regions with the greatest challenges
  • Clear and objective criteria are required, considering spatial scale and definition of selected regions.
  • There is an opportunity to consider more sophisticated selection criteria, beyond GDP per capita, for example, population sparsity, employment /participation rates, average wage levels, skill levels, economic concentration, “remoteness”, “fragility”.
  • Funding will need to be available over the
    long term at a level commensurate with the scale
    of challenge and opportunity, rather than short
    term, one-off allocations of funding.
  • Regional stakeholders should have an input to address
    the specific regional challenges and capitalise on regional opportunities.

Regional policy should be place-based

By ensuring future regional policy is place based, there is a chance to:

  • Enhance the region’s physical and digital connectivity.
  • Provide investment in sectors / clusters where the region has competitive advantage, such as marine energy and life sciences – regional Smart Specialisation.
  • Investment in new technologies, particularly  the “Local Energy Economy”
  • attract and retain talent, recognising that this is multi-faceted, including employment, education, housing, connectivity and transport.
  • Invest  in education and skills infrastructure and provision to match the future needs of the regional economy.
  • Invest in community capacity building and resilience, leading to strong, vibrant communities.

Now is the time!

HIEP  stresses that how important it is that lessons learned from our collective experience of EU programmes are captured and inform the development and delivery of successor domestic programmes.
HIEP is also stressing that time is running out. “The current structural funds programmes end in 2020 and now is the time to develop future regional policy to avoid a damaging hiatus in Regional Policy and support”, concludes their paper.
You can read the full HIEP position paper here.

 

 

Empowering Small Island Communities: report from our 2018 learning exchange and AGM

What a rich and inspiring time we had in Tiree. Over the three days, thirty-two islanders representing twenty different islands came together to learn from each other and debate a wide range of topics including the Islands (Scotland) Act, Crown Estate, Brexit, Housing, Social Care, Marine Plastic, Tourism, Energy, Population & Demographics as well as a strategy session for S.I.F – a very productive few days despite Storm Ali!

We would like to thank everyone that was able to attend, contribute and help out. We would also like to thank the Community Learning Exchange which made it possible for many of us to be there along with our funding contribution from the Scottish Government.

You can read the full report here : Scottish Islands Federation – Tiree Report and see some of the presentations and briefings below:

Keynote address by Michael Russell MSP

S.I.F Briefing: Smart Islands

Crown Estate Scotland: Local Engagement and Management

S.I.F Briefing Paper: Health & Social Care in Small Island Communities

Workshop on Island Social Care

Workshop on the Impact of Tourism

S.I.F Briefing: Marine Plastics

 

The Clean Energy for EU Islands Initiative

Malta Political Declaration on European Islands

Following on from the Smart Islands Initiative, spearheaded by island local and regional authorities of the Members States signing the Smart Islands Declaration,  momentum has been building up for national and European support for islands in Europe.

In the frame of the informal meeting of Energy ministers that took place in Valetta under the 2017 Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU, Ministers of 14 Members States including from Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Italy, Croatia, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Finland and Estonia signed together with the European Commission a political declaration to launch the new “Clean Energy for EU Islands” initiative.

Unfortunately the UK was not represented, although Scotland is very much at the forefront of the Renewable Energy revolution. However these policies have the support of the Scottish Government, and Scotland through S.I.F. and the Islands Councils in the CPMR are actively representing local and regional stakeholders.

Clean Energy for EU Islands” initiative.

The initiative builds on the Commission’s “Clean Energy for All    Europeans” Communication of November 2016. The overall goal is for the EU to become a low carbon economy via transformation of its energy system by

  • putting energy efficiency first
  • achieving global leadership in renewable energies
  • providing a fair deal for consumers

To start the transition process in the EU, the Initiative aims at  first accelerating the clean energy transition on EU islands, by helping them reduce their dependency on energy imports through enhanced exploitation of their own renewable energy sources and uptake of more modern and innovative energy systems.

Members States expressed their full support to the Initiative as a stable, long-term framework that will help support replicable and scalable projects through the provision of financing and technical capacity for islands.

To this end, they invited other countries to join and:

  • accelerate the clean energy transition on EU’s 2700 islands
  • help islands reduce dependency and costs of energy imports by using RES
  • embrace modern and innovative energy systems
  • improve air quality and lower greenhouse gas emissions

The Chania Inaugural Forum

The island of Crete hosted the Inaugural Forum on the “Clean Energy for All European Islands” initiative, part of the Winter Package, that was tabled by the European Commission last November under the title “Clean Energy for All Europeans”.

The Forum was organized by the European Commission and the Greek government with over 200 participants and close to 40 speakers taking the floor, representing an overwhelming endorsement by political representatives of national, regional and local level as well as industry and civil society stakeholders. Community Energy Scotland was invited to present the access project in Mull and other pioneering Scottish projects.

The islands are now widely recognised as platforms for pilot initiatives and showcases for success stories. Islands are:

  • innovation leaders for integrating local RES production, storage facilities and demand response;
  • demonstrating how decarbonisation creates resilient energy systems via reduced reliance on fossil fuel imports, the protection of environment, and autonomy of energy supply
  • showing that energy transition can be a driver for economic development (new local jobs, new business opportunities, self-sufficiency of island communities)

Next measures

The next measures are a Clean Energy Package to create the right legal framework (RES, consumers and stability for investment and a two directional approach for facilitation of transition and “island-frontrunners”: top-down and bottom up, as well as cooperation with national/regional organisations of islands

The EU commission has an ambitious objective: 1000 EU islands decarbonised by 2030!

A Clean EU Energy Islands Secretariat

The call for a Clean Energy EU island secretariat is a first step to ensure that islands can become platforms for pilot initiatives on clean energy transition and showcase success stories of islands’ transition at international level. The next step is to set up an Island Facility  under Horizon 2020 to support the comprehensive energy transition in preparatory and implementation phase.

Based in Brussels but reaching out to the islands, the Secretariat’s aim is to carry out a benchmarking study on energy systems on islands and to assist the islands to design and prepare decarbonisation plans by providing dedicated capacity building, technical assistance and advisory services.

  • It will create and manage a platform of exchange of practice for islands involved clean energy projects through a dedicated website which will also offer web-based tools to facilitate networking and exchanges.
  • It will also organise Islands Initiative forums and islands technology fairs to bring together all interested parties including investors, to share best practice in financial and regulatory tools and promoting best available technologies, with the aim to take action on the ground.
  • It will concentrate on identifying and executing clean energy projects that create local employment, community empowerment, as well as support growth in tourism, agriculture, fisheries and other important economic sectors on the islands through lower local energy pricesS.I.F. and ESIN are part of a bid to run the secretariat fronted by the CPMR, together with Community Energy Scotland. Their bid is  the only one fronted by island organisations and is supported by the Scottish Government. The winning bid will be announced by July 2018.

Small Islands Think Big in Orkney

‘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:

Learning Visit to Orkney – September 2017

Island Passport – Branding of the Danish Islands

labelling-of-island-food-products.ESIN AGM 2017

Shapinsay Activities

Öland beyond fossil fuels

Smart Islands Initiative – Sustainable Island Mobility Plan

Elektra Tech Data Sheet – Finland’s First Hybrid Ferry

Orkney Food & Drink and Orkney Crafts Association

Smart Islands – Kythnos Smart Island Master Plan

Looking to the horizon – islands in the front line

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.

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.

Scottish Rural Parliament: the final Brexit statement

          The Scottish rural Parliament

Engaging Scotland’s rural communities on Brexit

Policy Statement

WE CALL FOR:
1. Clear and direct UK and Scottish Government’s commitment to
equality for rural people, places and enterprise in Scotland.          Rural and island communities in Scotland are fearful that our needs are unheard and will be unmet in the future by the UK and Scottish
Government, which can feel distant and removed from our
day to day lives. The EU brings a long history of support for peripheral rural and island areas which has had a significant impact on the sustainability and development of rural areas. We need reassurance through clear commitments that the UK and Scottish Government will continue to meet the needs of rural people, places and enterprises.
2.Responsive government and connected political leadership
that engages with rural communities with regard to Brexit.
There is a climate of uncertainty with a number of negative impacts,
including an increasing lack of confidence now and in the future,
leading to risk-aversion and apathy amongst rural businesses
in particular. We need to see demonstrable and effective leadership that brings clarity and provides security to build confidence.
3. Reassurances that both the UK and Scottish Government will attract migrant workers and their families. There is deep concern in a number of sectors including tourism, health and agriculture that migrant worker numbers have already decreased to critical levels in some areas and will continue to decrease after Brexit. Current
and future migrant workers and their families need to feel welcomed and have the right to remain. Processes to accept workers post Brexit need to positively empower by being accessible and straightforward. The Scottish Government should use its devolved powers to proactively attract and support workers from all communities.
4. Funding allocations to be made on an equitable basis for rural
Scotland. There is concern about the level of resources that will be
available to Scotland from the proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund
post- Brexit and a fear of increasing centralisation around resource allocation that would mitigate in favour of urban rather than rural
areas. Recognising specific challenges and opportunities to remote, rural and island communities, consideration requires to be given to a fair and equitable distribution of resources to Scotland.mThere needs to be ring-fenced funding for rural areas and priorities
in the budget process moving forward.
5.Place-based rural community and economic development
The L EADER and EMFF place-based, grassroots approach
has contributed significantly to the fabric of Scottish rural
life and economic development for over 20 years.  At a time where
rural communities are under most pressure, it is essential that steps
are taken to secure the future of this approach andthe funding that came with it from the European Union.
6. Government support to celebrate cultural diversity, community cohesion and resilience. There needs to be government support to promote the principles of wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity
throughout society recognising the distinctive nature of our rural communities. There is a consensus that Brexit is interpreted by some as a valid platform for openly expressing views with a negative impact on cultural diversity. This includes the behaviour of politicians at a UK level around Brexit which has diminished public confidence and trust in national government leadership, ultimately impacting on perceptions of politicians in general. This is particularly the case in relation to immigration issues. A proactive approach is needed to develop community cohesion and address concerns of racism and xenophobia, and a clear message should be sent
that this behaviour is not to be tolerated.
7. The UK Government to respect and commit to working with devolved governments throughout the transition from EU membership. It is evident that Scotland and the other UK devolved governments are being excluded from decision-making throughout the Brexit negotiations and will continue to be excluded through the re-shaping of policy post-EU membership. This contributes to a sense of ongoing powerlessness in rural communities. The voice of ruralcommunities in Scotland can only be heard if the voices of our elected officials and unelected people are heard and respected,
and approaches to participatory democracy are used to ensure we
feel valued, respected and listened to. Devolved powers and responsibilities should remain devolved.
8. The recognition of the importance of an independent voice for rural communities  in Scotland. An independent mechanism is essential to enable all voices of rural Scotland to be heard at
every level and the appropriate forums to shape national policy for rural Scotland. Scottish Rural Action has emerged as a key voice for rural communities and requires appropriate resourcing and support
to fulfil its potential.
9.Recognising that Brexit will have a detrimental effect on existing
poverty and hardship in rural Scotland. We want rural communities to continue to have a strong collective voice, decision-making powers and investment to enable us to thrive andaddress the challenges of rural poverty, hardship and de-population in their own unique ways.
10. Valuing and maximising the diversity of the rural economy
The contribution of a diverse rural economy needs to be recognised as keyto Scotland and the UK, with its high levels of talent, entrepreneurship and assets. There is concern that the historic and current neglect and continuing decline of some areas is not recognised. It is essential that the policy is sustainable, valuing collaboration and maximising the opportunities and connections between sectors and communities.

S.I.F. AGM: Tiree, 18-20 September 2018

Scottish Islands Federation

2018 AGM & Learning Exchange

18-20 September 2018, Tiree

Empowering Small Island Communities – Learn from each other and have your say

What a rich and inspiring time we had in Tiree. Over the three days, thirty-two islanders representing twenty different islands came together to learn from each other and debate a wide range of topics including the Islands (Scotland) Act, Crown Estate, Brexit, Housing, Social Care, Marine Plastic, Tourism, Energy, Population & Demographics as well as a strategy session for S.I.F.

A very productive few days despite Storm Ali – and we would like to thank everyone that was able to attend, contribute and help out. We would also like to thank the Community Learning Exchange which made it possible for many of us to be there along with our funding contribution from the Scottish Government.

You can read the full report here and view some of the presentations and briefings below:

Keynote address by Michael Russell MSP

access the video link here

A

Young returners turning the tide of island population trends

In a great piece of news, a recent study of young people on the islands that stretch from Eriskay to Berneray has shown that, against the trend of many areas, young islanders are staying on the islands and returning home.

A wide range of factors seem to be behind this very welcome trend and you can read the full article here – Young returners to Uist press release 04 Apr 18 (2)

Are you seeing a similar trend on your island or is it going the opposite way – let us know.

The research has sparked much interested and you can see some further coverage here:

Herald story on young people and Uist 16 Apr 18

The Herald on why young people settling on Uist

 

From Water Saving to Green Tourism

March 2018 saw the conclusion of the ESIN water study involving 8 small European islands in Greece, Croatia, Ireland and France which all had issues with water shortage. ESIN received a prize for its research on four areas of water saving actions (training, engineering, billing and switching off) at the Greening the Islands Conference held in Savignana, Sicily, last September and will be presenting an overview of the project at the 2nd Smart Islands Global Gathering in Calvia this April.

One of the most interesting examples of water saving was provided by 2 islands in Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, Vis and Lastovo. The diagram below represents their average water consumption of 120 litres per day split in different uses: the darker the colour, the less purified the water needs to be. By way of comparison, the average daily water consumption rate per capita in Europe varies between 40 and 150 litres per day.

To encourage water saving in particular through water flow reducers (from 12 to 6 litres per minute), Sunce, a local sustainable development agency, developed “EkoPartner,” an eco-certification program for environmentally-responsible private tourist accommodations. The EkoPartner certification included 3 mandatory eco criteria, water saving, waste recycling (at least one type of waste) and energy efficiency (LED lights), with a further 7 criteria: washing & cleaning with eco products, green transport, local community involvement, organic and local food, noise & light pollution, traditional architecture, knowledge improvement.
10 small tourist accommodation providers on Lastovo and 5 on Vis were certified: a good start but not enough to make a real impact.

To build on this, Sunce started a new innovative eco-certification program called Dalmatia Green last July as part of a Greening of Dalmatia Tourism Offer project. To prove that going ‘green’ and saving water really pays off, the program provides several discounts to tourist accommodations from green industry companies to enable an easier step into eco-friendly practices.

Dalmatia Green then differentiates eco-friendly accommodations and lists them on Ecobnb.com – an international platform for booking of sustainable accommodations. The program also has an educational dimension in that guests are provided with tips on how to be a sustainable tourist and use water wisely!

Islands Bill Makes it Way Through Stage 2

The Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee has now considered Stage 2 of the Bill and has agreed several amendments brought forward by MSP’s and Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport & the Islands.   A summary of where things are is outlined below:

‘In Spring 2013, following the announcement that there would be a Scottish Independence Referendum, Scotland’s three island authorities – Orkney, Shetland and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar – formed a joint constitutional working group. This culminated in the launch of the Our Islands Our Future campaign in June 2013, and subsequent commitments from both the Scottish and UK Governments to better support and empower Scotland’s island communities’ – Islands (Scotland) Bill Executive Summary.

The Islands (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 9 June 2017 with 5 main provisions:

• National Islands Plan to set out government strategy for improving outcomes for island communities.
• Duties placed on Scottish Ministers and public bodies to have due regard to island communities – this will include carrying out island impact assessments.
• Protecting the parliamentary constituency boundary of Na h-Eileanan an Iar.
• Exceptions to the rules around three or four-member wards.
• Licensing scheme for works in or under the sea in the coastal waters around islands up to 12 nautical miles.

Read the full summary and timeline here.

Passing a new law in Scotland involves three stages:

Stage 1: parliament considers the main principles behind the bill, what it is trying to do and how it will do it. Public consultation is carried out and evidence collected. The Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee was appointed as the lead committee to scrutinise the Islands Bill and Stage 1 was completed on 8 February 2018.

Stage 2: there is an opportunity at Stage 2 for amendments to the bill to be lodged for consideration. Several proposed amendments to the Islands Bill were considered by the Committee on the 21 March and 28 March. Among the amendments agreed were considerations given to uninhabited islands, biosecurity around invasive species, including linguistic heritage, listing public authorities and involvement of island authorities and communities in the National Islands Plan. Discussion around the Plan highlighted the need to take action on key issues around broadband, ferries, fuel poverty and population decline. Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands brought forward the following amendment that the National Islands Plan should:

Improving outcomes for island communities and include improving and promoting:

(a) sustainable economic development,
(b) health and wellbeing, and
(c) community empowerment.

Stage 3: this will involve the final considerations and is the last opportunity for MSP’s to lodge amendments. Amendments will be considered followed by Decision Time on whether the Bill should be passed.

After that: once passed, a final version of the Bill will be published and there will be a four-week period when it can be challenged. After this the Presiding Officer will submit the Bill to The Queen for Royal Assent. It will then become an Act of the Scottish Parliament and part of the law of Scotland.

Fuel Poverty Strategy for Scotland – An Island Perspective

“We want to see more households living in well insulated warm homes; accessing affordable, low carbon energy; and having an increased understanding of how to best use energy efficiency in their homes” – Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities.

In its ambition to eradicate fuel poverty, the Scottish Government is bringing forward a new Fuel Poverty Strategy and a Warm Homes Bill.

People in island and rural communities are living with the highest levels of fuel poverty and acute fuel poverty in Scotland and  the opportunity to contribute an island perspective to the consultation was very welcome.

However, while we were pleased to see a recognition within the consultation of the distinct and additional challenges for island communities, we were disappointed that this did not translate into proposals for distinct and tailored action on the ground or embrace the enormous opportunity islands hold for sustainable energy.  In fact we are concerned that the proposal as it stands may have an unintended  detrimental impact on island and rural communities.

You can read our submission to the consultation here.

 

 

 

 

 

THE VOICE OF COMMUNITY ORGANISATIONS ON SCOTTISH ISLANDS