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 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.

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

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?

Yes.

  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.

COMMENTS:

 

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
https://www.facebook.com/CothromLearningCentre/

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

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

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

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

So, much of island proofing is actually about releasing the constraints that hold back our islands: the crown estate; the electricity charging framework that prices electricity according to distance from urban centre and thus makes the abundant renewable energy assets uneconomic; the lack of connectivity, preventing people running internet based businesses from choosing to settle on wonderful islands with all their potential (as a related example, look at how our North Uist medical practice is advertising for GPs: http://ruralgp.com/2017/08/vacancy-north-uist-scottish-hebrides-gp/).

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

Here are a few additional comments:

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

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

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