Islands (Scotland) Bill

Formally introduced on 9 June 2017, the Bill is for an Act of the Scottish Parliament to make provision for a national islands plan; to impose duties in relation to island communities on certain public authorities; to make provision about the electoral representation of island communities; and to establish a licensing scheme in respect of marine development adjacent to islands.

Stage 1 of the process has included a call for evidence from the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. Written evidence was submitted by a range of groups and individuals including SIF and you can see our submission here – thank you to everyone that contributed.

Our SIF Chair, Camille, was invited to take part in an evidence session with the Committee – you can watch it here.

The Committee also went out and about around the islands to hold direct discussion with islanders and you can read the feedback here.


Smart Sustainable Inclusive Blue Growth

4th Atlantic Stakeholder Platform Conference, Glasgow 

If the potential of the blue economy is to be realised, strategy must be based on local need and local communities must be key stakeholders – this was the message from Jerry Lundy, Committee of the Regions.

The Atlantic Action Plan was adopted in 2013 with the aim of revitalising the marine economy in its five partner nations – France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the UK. The Plan has four priorities:

  • To promote entrepreneurship and innovation.
  • To protect, secure and enhance the marine and coastal environment.
  • To improve accessibility and connectivity.
  • To create a socially inclusive and sustainable model of regional development.

The Action Plan was an invitation to the private sector, the research community, regional and national public bodies and others to develop projects based around these four priorities. A Support Team was set up to offer guidance, project development support and to help find funding for projects.

Each year a stakeholder conference facilitates networking, helps identify project partners and scope funding opportunities. As current chair of the Atlantic Strategy Group, the UK hosted this 4th conference in Glasgow which focussed on the 4th priority ‘Regeneration across Generations: socially inclusive sustainable development of the European Atlantic seaboard’.

The lack of dedicated funding was highlighted as a key challenge – trying to identify the most appropriate funding stream and then going through the complex and lengthy application process has made it very difficult for small-scale innovative projects to get involved.

Some of the projects coming through are fantastic and it’s well worth having a look through the 17 that were nominated for awards to see if any are relevant to your own community. Projects involving Scotland include:

  • Cool Route: increasing marine tourism and its reach into local economies along a new route from Cork to Tromsø in Western Norway.
  • Circular Ocean: tackling marine pollution by looking at ways to use discarded fishing nets including in 3D printing, waste water treatment and reinforcing building material.
  • TAPAS: Tools for Assessment and Planning of Aquaculture Sustainability.
  • ATLAS: developing new tools to better explore the Atlantic ecosystem on a trans-Atlantic scale.
  • Smart Fish: development of a new electronic tag to monitor seafood from harvest to plate.

At the event we heard about the Bio Base North West Europe project that has brought together a range of partners to provide financial, technological, training, networking and political support to enterprises innovating in biobased products and processes – one project that has been helped to get off the ground is Celtic Renewables which is developing next generation biofuel using waste from malt whisky production.

One project achieved a special award for reaching so many people across different communities and generations. Set up by a small group of women, the IAIA Association of Solidarity Needlework (IAIA means granny in Spanish) is a non-profit organisation offering “Yarn Therapy” in nursing homes, senior centres, schools etc.  Families donate balls of wool and a network of over 400 volunteers knit, crochet or use other needlework to make blankets and items that are then donated to refugees.  In 2015/16 the group decided to knit for a blue cause: to protect our marine environment and celebrate the World Oceans Day – 300 blue blankets, 3,000 scarves and 1,000 endangered knitted animals were produced and showed in schools, day care centres, museums and at the Ministry.

Workshops attended at the event included:

Year of Scotland’s Coast and Water 2020:  marine tourism has been identified as a key growth area and a range of projects were highlighted – Cool Route, West Coast Marine Tourism Collaboration led by Argyll & the Isles Tourism Co-operative, development of a Maritime Skills course at Argyll College UHI, Sail West Project and the Hebridean Whale Trail.  The difficulty of balancing growing tourism with local infrastructure and conservation was highlighted – ‘identity mapping’ was a technique used in Holland to put the local community in control of development.

Community-led Local Development: opportunities for fisheries communities and co-operation: Scotland’s whole coast is covered by Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) but very few projects are coming forward for funding – only 33 in Scotland compared to Ireland’s 190.  Information for each country can be found from the support unit FARNET.

Small Islands 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.

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


  • 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.


  • 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.

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


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.

S.I.F. draft response to Island Bill

Island Bill S.I.F.  Draft response

Islands (Scotland) Bill – call for evidence

Draft 31 August 2017

  1. The Bill creates a duty to publish a national islands plan and lay it before the Scottish Parliament. What are your views on this provision?

We believe that the duty to publish a national islands plan will be a positive milestone. The commitment to ensuring that the progress of the plan is monitored on an annual basis should increase responsibility and transparency, sustain momentum and provide assurance that the unique situation of islands maintains a high profile.

The National Islands Plan will set out the main objectives and strategy in relation to improving outcomes for island communities:

  • We would caution against the Plan being too prescriptive and detailed as to add another layer of bureaucracy. It should have flexibility to react to changing needs, more autonomy, set out a vision for the next 5 years and how it will be achieved.
  • For the Plan to meet the needs of island communities we believe that island communities themselves must be able to build and influence it and be engaged in the monitoring of its progress/or the national plan should be about trends and aspirations with the detail being left to communities to build?
  • It should include a strong commitment to subsidiarity – what means and support will there be to ensure that local decision making and engagement extends to island communities as well as their Local Authority.   While Community Planning Partnerships may seem to already facilitate this, in our experience CPP’s are not always effective in giving communities a voice. If the Convention of Highlands and Islands is the body used to bring in the islands’ voice, we feel that there should be a mechanism to involve grassroot representation on that body, including the Scottish islands Federation.
  • What evidence will be provided to satisfy the Scottish Government that views from island communities have been sought, included and acted upon?
  • As a result of community ownership of assets, some island communities are driving innovation and change and the plan must enable their empowerment even further. Alongside this, it is important to ensure that those islands that perhaps do not yet have that core capacity are still able to be involved.
  • The plan should be underpinned by a new territorial cohesion policy for Scotland, which would adopt the principle enshrined by Articles 170 and 174 of the TFEU, in their references to the requirements on member states to link island, landlocked and peripheral regions with the central regions of the Union (Article 170) and the identification of the need to pay particular attention to regions which suffer from permanent natural or demographic handicaps such as island regions (Article 174). The principles of the Smart Islands Declaration – which were supported by North Ayrshire, Highland, Argyll and Bute and Shetland Islands Councils – should also inform the plan, by acknowledging the islands’ potential to become Smart Islands, that is to say insular territories that embarks on a climate resilient pathway, combining climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, in order to create sustainable local economic development and a high quality of life for the local population by implementing smart and integrated solutions to the management of infrastructures, natural resources and the environment as a whole, supported by the use of ICT, all the while promoting the use of innovative and socially inclusive governance and financing schemes.
  • While it is called a ‘National’ plan, it must reflect the difference between Scotland’s islands.
  • We would like to see the plan go further to include the establishment of an islands desk/department within Scottish Government. Over the next few years the islands will be amongst the hardest hit communities in the UK as a result of leaving the EU – we need people in place and joined-up thinking to ensure ambitions can still be realised, particularly in the fields of Renewable Energy and carbon reduction.
  • In order to measure success effectively we believe there needs to be a piece of work to establish key baseline data for each island as island statistics are currently patchy and inconsistent. Some the islands which are part of mainland NUTS3 classification are not even singled out and are to all intent and purposes invisible.
  • Will the resources be in place to allow the plan to make a difference?
  1. The Bill will require Scottish Ministers and certain Scottish public authorities, to prepare island impact assessments. Do you agree with this provision? How do you think it should work in practice?

We very much welcome the commitment to the principle of island-proofing as a duty to have regard to island communities. We feel it should be a legal duty and mandatory throughout government. Such a duty should encompass the principles articulated in Articles 170 and 174 of the Lisbon Treaty, which acknowledge the permanent geographical constraints of island territories and their difficulties in accessing the market.

The Islands Bill is the perfect opportunity to address problems by allowing greater flexibility to meet specific island needs but how it should work in practice is difficult to visualise without examples.

Points we consider important include:

  • Island Proofing means assessing policy options to ensure that optimal solutions to our islands areas are applied at all stages of policy development – but most importantly at the earliest stages – taking account of equity and equality issues, by: a) assessing the evidence of specific islands’ needs and circumstances at the start of designing a policy; b) considering the options for fair impacts on the ground in islands areas; and, c) where appropriate, adjusting policies or delivery..
  • Island proofing ought to make government more effective and more efficient and help achieve good economic, environmental and social solutions contributing to growth.
  • Island proofing should therefore be extended to all bodies with island functions and services, including utilities companies, communications providers and regulatory bodies such as OFGEM and all statutory and regulatory bodies with influence over the islands. Island proofing of the way National policies are applied ought to make them more accessible to islands: for example local food production would benefit of local abattoirs, and this may require special derogations. In terms of energy efficiency and fuel poverty, it is important that programmes are island proofed to fit locality and circumstances and acknowledge that island renewables allows production of clean electricity, which should count in terms of de-carbonisation, instead of being penalised as in Orkney. In terms of waste, the higher cost of transport to islands should be considered, as well as the burden of having to get rid of marine plastics. Distance to Market and transport integration are also aspects that need to be taken into consideration.
  • Targeted support to mitigate islands impacts may be needed. Island proofing funding would ensure that the reality of life in remote islands and the higher cost of service delivery is taken into account.
  • The “one size fits all” approach to Planning is detrimental to the islands, and island proofing should provide an opportunity to consider how the Planning function is delivered in an islands’ context.
  • With regards to the specific question of island impact assessment, we agree that a duty should be placed on relevant authorities to undertake an impact assessment when developing, redeveloping and delivering a policy, strategy or service, if it is anticipated to have a significantly different effect on an island community compared with other communities (including other island communities).
  • It is not clear to us however how an island impact assessment will be triggered. Will they be engaged in the assessment? Will island communities have a right to request an assessment? Will island communities even be in the position of knowledge to enable them to request an assessment i.e. will communities be aware of a potential impact before an assessment is triggered?
  • Adequate monitoring of commitments to island proofing will be necessary to ensure that it not just a paper exercise. The bill should detail how this will be done.
  • While it is clear that an island impact assessment will be an important tool in considering the impact on islands we feel that on its own it does not encompass the meaning we believed is behind island proofing. There are many instances of current policy and legislation that would benefit from a review with an island proofing eye.
  • In conclusion, rather than a distant tick box exercise to assess impact, island proofing needs to include the small things as well as the big, to be meaningful to people living on the islands. It needs to offer a new flexibility to be able to adapt things and try new ways of working that will suit an island setting, it needs to be a positive and wider thing, it should embed island issues rather than simply consulting on them. As well as consider impact, it should assess need and enable and drive opportunity. Bill detail proposals for island communities to ensure that island-proofing is effectively implemented and is making a measurable and meaningful difference to communities.
  1. The Bill proposes to protect the Scottish Parliamentary constituency boundary of Na h-Eileanan an Iar (the Western Isles) from change. Do you agree with this?


  1. The Bill proposes to make an exception to the rules for local government electoral wards to allow areas with inhabited islands to return 1 or 2 members (instead of the usual 3 or 4). What are your views on this proposal?

We agree that the current system is unfair – for instance, Cumbrae and Arran are not represented by their own member because there is a perception that their combined population is too small. We therefore agree that there should be the flexibility to have 1 or 2 member wards.

However the challenge of finding a representative and meeting the administrative requirements for islands with a small population that struggle with representation – should not be overlooked in the planning of mechanisms and resources needed to deliver.


  1. The Bill will provide a regulation-making power for the Scottish Ministers to create a marine licensing scheme for coastal waters. Do you agree with this power? Do you have any comments on how it should be used?

We do agree with the power and feel that island councils should have more power and influence over and benefit from marine development as should island communities themselves and we would therefore welcome a real commitment to subsidiarity.

There should be provision to enable the revenue from Crown Estate marine assets to be invested in the islands – island communities depend on the surrounding shore and sea for many needs, yet currently they have no influence over development and have to pay the Crown to be able to use their own asset.

We believe aquaculture should be included. While valuable jobs can be created, the impact should also be considered via island-proofing.

The regulation should be more flexible to enable influence over decisions outwith 12 nautical miles where there is shore-based activity and therefore an impact on the islands.

  1. Does the Bill achieve its aims and are you in favour overall? Is there anything else that you feel should be included or excluded from the Bill?

It is not quite clear how the Bill will actually address the challenges, realise the potential and empower island communities. How will it support sustainable, permanent communities on inhabited islands?

The Plan sets the vision and the impact assessments will consider the effect on islands. Will it be backed by investment and action that will tackle the big issues such as fuel poverty, cost of living, health provision, service retention, lack of housing for young people, population decline, connectivity? What will actually be done to create the level playing field and parity that is needed for islands to flourish?

  1. Do you have any comments on the bill in relation to human rights or equalities?

While the challenges of island life are recognised, there is often a presumption held that islanders should just get on with it as it is their own choice to live on an island. People living on the islands accept that there will never be the number or choice of things available to them as in an urban area but strongly believe that they should expect an equal level of service for the essential things in life such as medical treatment, education, power, fuel, waste, connectivity and that the over-cost of island life due to transport should never be underestimated and always be taken into account.



1/ Thomas Fisher, Young Start Project Leader
Mentor Uist and Barra — supporting young people aged 16 to 24
Cothrom Ltd, 01878 700918 (direct) or 700910

There is little I would disagree with in your draft response to the Islands Bill.

My first main point relates to an overall framework of thinking about our islands.  Yes, the bill has been introduced to address the huge challenges of island life.  Just as important is to recognise the huge assets that islands have (land, community, people, enterprise, social enterprises stronger on the islands than on the mainland, etc.).  I would prefer a response that began with these assets, and then said that the bill needs to be about releasing the potential of these assets.  At one point you clearly do this:

“There should be provision to enable the revenue from Crown Estate marine assets to be invested in the islands – island communities depend on the surrounding shore and sea for many needs, yet currently they have no influence over development and have to pay the Crown to be able to use their own asset“.

We have to pay to use our own assets, rather than being able to use them ourselves for our own economic and community benefit!  This is surely the next step for community ownership of land.

So, much of island proofing is actually about releasing the constraints that hold back our islands: the crown estate; the electricity charging framework that prices electricity according to distance from urban centre and thus makes the abundant renewable energy assets uneconomic; the lack of connectivity, preventing people running internet based businesses from choosing to settle on wonderful islands with all their potential (as a related example, look at how our North Uist medical practice is advertising for GPs:

My second main point is to reinforce the democratic deficit.  Island communities have shown beyond any doubt that they are very capable of governing themselves (more than two thirds of people in the Outer Hebrides living on community owned land, Eigg, Gigha, Westray, etc.)  We need more control and influence on anything that affects our island life.  There should be a presumption in the bill that any new policies should increase our control and influence.

Here are a few additional comments:

Yes, the bill should include a focus on utilities and other commercial bodies.  These have such a huge influence on island economies (e.g. fuel costs, renewables, broadband, etc.).  Island proofing, for example, would not allow OFGEM’s current pricing regime for electricity generation (I realise that OFGEM is British wide, but it is a striking example).

I would also like to see organisations, not just BT and others, but including charities and social enterprises, that take government funding to deliver a Scottish wide service demonstrate how they are doing this.  The number of websites of such organisations I have been to that claim they serve all of Scotland, but when you call them up, they say delivering the service, or even coming to visit the islands, is too expensive.  On their side, the Scottish government would have to recognise that additional costs to make the service available to remote islands are legitimate, and must not disadvantage bids in competitive tendering.

Recognising the additional costs of delivering services to remote islands with highly dispersed populations is of course essential for all services, public, private and third sector.







Kirkwall, Shapinsay and North Ronaldsay: S.I.F. AGM 2017

 S.I.F. AGM to take place alongside ESIN AGM and Conference in Kirkwall this September

The Scottish Islands Federation will be hosting the European Small Islands Federation AGM and annual Conference in partnership with the Orkney International Science Festival from 11 to 13 September 2017.

From Island produce branding to sustainable transport and Community Renewable energy

The event will include a study visit featuring the culture and archeology of the Orkney with a discussion on island product branding on Monday 11, a study visit to Shapinsay on Tuesday 12 with a smaller group heading to North Ronaldsay, and 3 presentations on the theme of greening  the islands as part of the Orkney International Science Festival on Wednesday 13 September. Of particular importance to the Scottish Islands will be the last session, featuring Brendan Devlin, special advisor to DG Energy, who will present the Clean Energy EU Islands strategy agreed on in Malta last May.  Kostas Komninos from Greece, Elvira Laneborg from Sweden and Mark Hull from Scotland will also present initiatives showing how European islands ‘ smart approach to Energy from transport to renewables production places them as leaders in  sustainable development.

Good attendance from Scottish and European islands

Ireland, France, Sweden, Estonia, Finland and Sweden islands will be represented at the event, with delegates from Eigg, Cumbrae, Luing, Bute, Mull, Barra, Fetlar and several Orkney island Development trusts attending as well.

You can see the full programme here.

S.I.F. Draft response to Island Bill to be approved at the S.I.F. AGM.

An important part of the S.I.F. AGM will be for the delegates to look over the S.I.F. draft response, add to it if necessary and approve it for submission to the Scottish Government in time for the 25 September deadline.

The S.I.F. AGM will take place at 18.45 at the Kirkwall Hotel, Harbour St, Kirkwall, KW15 1LE

S.I.F. AGM Agenda

  1. Apologies
  2. Minutes of last AGM held in Seil
  3. Chair’s report
  4. Treasurer’s report and appointment of auditors
  5. Membership subscriptions
  6. Board elections
  7. Island Bill, discussion of draft SIF response
  8. AOB

 More directors wanted!

With 2 board members standing down , but up for re-election, S.I.F. is looking for up to 4 more directors to take the organisation forward. Help us make the island voice even stronger!











EU Cohesion Policy translated into UK policy: more S.I.F. Brexit questions! into

Do we have a UK Cohesion Policy equivalent to the EU Cohesion Policy?

No we haven’t, says S.I.F. Chair Camille Dressler,  and there has been so far no evidence that any thought has been devoted to that part of EU policy which has been fundamental in ensuring island sustainable development throughout the EU. Are there any thought of developing an equivalent Policy? What happens to Article 174 of th Lisbon Treaty which underpins much of the principles that have informed the Cohesion Policy? Is that going to be repatriated? We fear it won’t as the UK government paid precious little attention  to it when it was an integral part of the EU!

Post 2020 Cohesion Policy has been the subject of much discussion in  the past few months at many different levels. Yet, unsurprisingly,  there has been little about it in the media.  So with this concern in mind, these are the questions we asked MPs Ian Blackford and Stephen Gethins, and now they want to discuss this further!

S.I.F. letter to MPs Ian Blackford and Stephen Gethins

In the context of the UK Brexit negociations, the Scottish Islands Federation is extremely concerned that the Joint Ministerial Committee approach agreed on by the UK Government has thus far produced no tangible results with regards to the differentiated solution proposed by the Scottish Government, which would have secured access to the Single Market for Scotland’s islands.

  • Concerns about EU Cohesion policy.

Scottish Islands Federation’s members have expressed dismay and worry regarding the move away from the EU Cohesion Policy with its associated structural funds and the CAP for the islands.

We would therefore like to stress how important the EU Cohesion Policy has been for the islands. Its stated aim being to improve the economic well-being of regions in the EU and also to moderate regional disparities, it has been geared towards making regions more competitive, fostering economic growth and creating new jobs. It also has had an important role to play addressing important wider challenges such as climate change, sustainable energy supply and globalisation.

More than one third of the EU budget is currently devoted to this policy, which aims to remove economic, social and territorial disparities across the EU. Crucially, through Article 174 of the Lisbon Treaty, the policy recognizes inherent and permanent geographical challenges faced by islands.

With a GDP of 75 to 90% of the EU average, the Highlands and Islands have had ‘transitional region’ status. This has enabled the area to benefit from a whole suite of European funds targeted at social and community projects, infrastructure, businesses, partnerships and future proofing measures, including investment in renewable energy projects.

  • CoR and EESC recommendations on islands issues

This spring, both the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee have published recommendations on the issues of island entrepreneurship and the situation of islands in the current and future EU regional policy post-2020.

Islands should be a particular focus of post-2020 cohesion policy, by adding islands as an additional category in the EU Regulation on territorial typologies

Set up a one-stop shop for the islands (“Island Desk”) within the DG REGIO at the European Commission

Establish a system of operating assistance for island businesses to offset higher transport costs, by updating guidelines on regional aid and the GBER

Set up a programme to stimulate innovation processes in island economies, make use of local resources, provide support for the use of renewable energies, handle waste, manage water, promote cultural and natural heritage, and establish a circular economy

All island regions and island Member States to be considered as less developed regions in post-2020 cohesion policy

Include insularity clauses in all key EU legislation, to take specific island circumstances into account

  • Clean Energy EU islands declaration

Last May, the EU commission issued the Clean Energy EU islands declaration informed by the European Parliament’s resolution on the special situation of islands (2015/3014(RSP) stressing the European islands’ potential to contribute to strengthening sustainable development in the Union, which will promote and support tailor-made clean energy transitions for islands.

We are therefore very clear about what the islands of Scotland will miss out on through Brexit.

  • Concerns regarding current approach to negotiations

In this context, we are seeking assurances and clarifications as to how the transition from EU funding to UK funding will be managed to safeguard the fragile economies of the islands and avoid real risks of depopulation, and what measures is the UK government prepared to take to mitigate the loss of opportunities currently being developed within the EU for the islands.

The response by Mr Davis to the differentiated solution proposed by the UK government leads to us to fear that such fundamental aspects of structural development policy, as represented by the EU territorial Cohesion Policy, are being ignored or side-lined through their rejection of Scotland’s proposed access to the Single Market.

This gives the Scottish Islands little confidence in the UK Government’s understanding of issues concerning the islands’ economic survival once EU funding will cease.

We would like in particular to seek clarity on if and how the recognition of the islands’ peripheral and fragile status by the Lisbon Treaty will be translated into UK law post-Brexit.

  • Our questions:

We seek your response as to the following questions which we submit are fundamental to the continual growth and development of our island region post-Brexit:

  1. What policies if any will be put in place at UK and Scottish level to replace the Cohesion Policy framework
  2. If such policies are to be established, how would the necessary Structural Funds be established and at what level would they be administered?
  3. How would Scotland feed into that process? How would the communities most affected be engaged to support development of policies behind the funds?
  4. How can existing levels of funding be protected?
  5. What measures are the UK Government prepared to take to ensure that cooperation with other EU island regions can continue?
 How can the UK 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?
  7. What assurance can the UK 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?
  8. How is the UK Government planning to ensure that environmental protection which is crucial to the sensitive and fragile environment of Scotland’s islands will be continued?
  9. What about the 2020 goals and commitments to lowering carbon consumption, notably through production of renewable energy?
  10. 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.

We look forward to receiving your response on how you as an MP will seek to mitigate the effects of a move away from the EU Territorial Cohesion policy. This would have the potential to starve the islands of crucial economic and social support, jeopardize their fragile and precious environment and hamper their development and aspirations for decades to come.

Furthermore, we welcome any queries or discussions you may wish to undertake with us to ensure the success of future policies, which will directly affect the Scottish island regions as well as other islands in the UK.




Proposal for an international Small Island terroir brand

Island Specialties® – a transnational and internationally appreciated terroir brand?

Danish Island food producer Laurids Sig Christensen thinks that  island produce need to be have their own internationally recognised brand:”Island Specialties® ”

Unique island aspects

Islands often have unique natural conditions of food production and these conditions potentially result in unique products and unique qualities in products. Therefore, food producers on small islands have unique conditions to comply with the terroir concept and unique conditions to contribute to diversification in food qualities and methods of food production adapted to the nature of these locations.

Collective marketing impact

Island communities generally have strong identity, and they have a strong appeal to the outside world in many – if not all countries. The reason why a terroir brand was developed in Denmark and the perspective of developing it into an internationally recognized brand was about developing collective impact in marketing. See how the Danes did it  here.

A large number of island brands already exists, some of which are very strong. Developing collective impact in marketing is not an alternative to these marketing platforms – the perspective is to develop synergy between island brands already existing. To develop collective impact in marketing of products from small island communities requires that there is a general understanding and acceptance of the value of doing so.

Mapping production potential in small island communities

“First of all,  it would be good to discuss and ultimately develop definitions of what a small island is in a European context’ proposes Laurids. ” What is the size limits of a small island and what is the size limits of small island communities?  It might be difficult to reach a consensus for all countries in Europe but if we could reach common definitions for a substantial number of countries it would still be worth the effort!”

Exploring international marketing perspectives

The next step might be to discuss perspectives and interest in concerted marketing efforts, i.e. presentation on international food exhibitions, targeting specific markets such as Japan and the USA.

Small island food producers in Denmark did go to Japan, and the interest in Japan was extraordinary. However, more strength is needed to penetrate and actually get our products on the Japanese market.

Together we can do it better than individually!

Laurids wants to hear from you. You can contact him through us at

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.