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Cold Water Tourism Conference on Arran 14-16 March 2016

2nd Cold water tourism conference in Arran

Cold water island tourism is a new initiative to promote, celebrate and help develop tourism on small cold water island destinations around the world.

Meet private sector drivers of tourism – Investors – Public sector policy makers – Politicians and civic leaders – Destination managers and marketeers – Educationalists and researchers: it is all happening on the isle of Arran  on 14th – 16th March 2016.

Following on from last year’s success, this second  Cold Water Tourism conference will focus on sustainable economic development on islands and rural areas and is supported by the North Ayrshire Council.

Download the programme here:

SIF director Frank Corcoran will be attending and will report on the conference and its merits.

What the prospectus says:

For many cold water maritime countries, in both the northern and southern hemispheres, their islands make a valuable contribution to the overall tourism experience and the economy.

In the Northern Hemisphere this is especially the case in most of the North Atlantic (Scandinavian, Germany, Netherlands and Baltic nations as well as Scotland, Ireland, Wales and, to a lesser extent the rest of the UK).

In terms of our understanding of the value, market demand and economic impact there has been relatively little research. Most of the published work, and indeed the focus of most travel writers, is upon ‘warm water island’ tourism. This is also the case for many of the conferences that take place on this subject.

The AIM is to redress this situation.

The ‘cold water islands’ face common tourism opportunities and challenges. There is real potential for collaboration, sharing knowledge and developing a common research agenda.

There is a collaborative opportunity to DIRECTLY assist

island tourism. We need to develop a robust and innovative programme of activity designed to help tourism professionals.

Knowledge transfer and sharing sits comfortably with the notion of international cooperation.

At the same time there is scope to jointly develop events and festivals across a wide geographic area that can develop tourism visits.
It is possible to design and develop events to be hosted at several islands – to create innovation, quality and reduce costs.

A key element of a collaborative approach is to develop fresh appropriate methods for measuring and evaluating ‘success’.
In particular, there is the potential to develop a new Island ‘Livability Index” and to understand tourism’s contribution to this ‘index’.

ORGANISING GROUP

Lars Olsen — (Denmark)
Alastair Dobson — Visit Arran (Scotland)
Terry Stevens — Stevens and Associates (Wales)

Vision

Making small cold islands tourism destinations of choice helping to making them sustainable (financial, economic, social and environmental) and attractive places to live and work.

Mission

“Creating a unique network of cold water island destinations in order to benefit from having a representative voice of influence and forging collaborative working and sharing practical solutions based
upon successful actions and evidence.”

Aim

To give this mission with a starting point by organizing the first ANNUAL European Conference on ‘cold water island tourism’.

Objectives

— Share knowledge of successful practical projects; — Create networks of expertise and information;
— Discuss common issues and opportunities to grow

the value of tourism;
— Identify innovative solutions to underpin sustainable growth; — Celebrate and recognise best practice project;
— Develop a common agenda for support and development; — Promote awareness of cold islands as tourism destinations; — Influencing eu programs and policies.

Desired outcomes

— Establishing and growing an on-going network and dialogue between destinations

— Creating a central and accessible pool of research, knowledge and case studies

— Holding regular symposia, conferences and workshops — Promoting the interests of these destinations

We need to raise the status of tourism in the context of economic development in maritime countries. This is best done through improving our understanding of the potential for growth in the context of:

Market trends Innovation Investment Climatic issues Sustainability Accessibility

THE TIME IS RIGHT

The EU’s ‘Blue Growth Strategy’ is highlighting the importance of developing all aspects of the marine environment for economic development. This is supported by a new focus on “Cold Water Islands” as part of the EU programs 2014-2021.

International conferences have been announced to consider future of Island communities. There is a real opportunity to influence these agendas.

For many island communities, tourism is the main stay of their economy. It is a sector in growth and offers considerable scope for enhanced sustainable development. As a result, there is now a growing interest at the level of national Governments to take advantage of these island assets.

Tourism is becoming increasingly segmented with a diversity of markets and interest groups, which increases the opportunities for cold water islands.

THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR COLLABORATION

Most island communities have a strong heritage and cultural resources. As a result of their heritage of having to be self sufficient there is generally a good asset base of local crafts and produce creating a very compelling sense of place.

Island tourism businesses tend to be micro / SMEs. They are often marginal businesses but the cash generated is vital for the overall survival of island communities. Much of the appeal and product base is also small scale. It takes the form of special interest tourism and events, often featuring indigenous art, music, history, archeology, hand crafts and sport.

LAND REFORM NEEDS TO LOOK SEAWARD

Land reform needs to look seaward.

pressed from  the Scottish Community Alliance , 24 Feb 2016 briefing

Anyone following the recent twists and turns of the Land Reform Bill’s passage through Scottish Parliament will have noticed a distinct stiffening in the resolve to produce a Bill that has real bite. Much of this effort to date has focused on achieving greater transparency as to who actually owns land. It now seems that this Bill is effectively laying the groundwork for a much wider programme of reform to follow. Glen Smith, researching for his PhD at Tromso University in Norway, argues that the marine environment needs to figure much more prominently in the debates to come.

By Glen Smith, University of Tromso

For the past three years I have been engaged in research into how marine spatial planning will affect the management of Scotland’s coastal, foreshore and inshore areas (up to 12 nautical miles from the coast). The new planning system will be guided by the National Marine Plan (2015), and regional plans will be formulated within the 11 new Scottish Marine Regions. Marine planning partnerships – comprised of local experts, practitioners and stakeholders – will work within each of these regions to tailor the plans to local needs. The system is designed to allow more local ownership and decision making about specific issues within their area.

In the course of my work I have become less interested in the technicalities of planning at sea, and more interested in what this new infrastructure means for local democracy and the voice of coastal and island communities. For several reasons it appears that the democratic foundation of marine spatial planning in Scotland might not be as strong as is claimed.

Firstly, the consultation system supporting decision making in the marine environment is far from perfect, and often exclusive. The Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST), for example, has faced this problem. COAST is one of the UK’s leading community marine conservation organisations. Their achievements are quite remarkable, including the establishment of Scotland’s first no-take zone in Lamlash Bay in 2008. However, despite the high level of local support, the organisation has been denied input into consultation on the management options for marine protected areas and is unlikely to be represented in the new local planning partnership. It appears that COAST will be overlooked in the latest governance infrastructure for marine resource management.

Secondly, marine spatial planning immediately raises questions over the role of the Crown Estate (Commission). This organisation owns and manages over half of Scotland’s foreshore and almost the entire inshore seabed. It negotiates leases on this space with any new actor wishing to develop a project, as they will require anchorage or some point of contact to the seabed. Although stringent environmental regulations and impact assessments are followed, the democratic input by local communities into these lucrative business deals is often limited. For many, marine management is an exclusive realm dominated by those bodies who possess the skills, knowledge, and expertise in the field: Marine Scotland; the Crown Estate; Scottish Natural Heritage; the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

For planning in Scotland’s seas the starting point is typically ‘blue growth’, project development, nature conservation, and conflict resolution. These are challenging issues that do indeed require careful planning. However, the starting point is rarely local democracy, subsidiarity, or strengthened communities, even though the government is committed to improving these aspects of Scottish life.

The key to raising the profile of coastal and island communities may lie in introducing a new concept into land reform debates. I propose we call it ‘marine land’. The 2014 report by the Land Reform Review Group clearly states, “the land of Scotland in this context is the territorial land area of Scotland, including Scotland’s seabed out to the 12 nautical mile territorial boundary” (p16). And yet this area is rarely more than name-dropped in debates over land reform (and, indeed, in the rest of that report). Seen from a governance and decision-making perspective, the Crown Estate is a private landowner. So why do we not consider more radical ways to increase input by communities in marine resource management, such as community buyout of marine land?

Critics will cite the lack of expertise and funds in communities, the need for a unified vision for Scotland’s seas, and concerns over the true intentions of communities owning the seabed. My research is focused on imagining what a new governance system might look like that addresses such concerns. Following through with the planned two-stage reform of the Crown Estate is an important element, as is continued strong guidance from the National Marine Plan. The potential roles of local councils, development trusts, and Community Land Scotland all need to be considered. Communities will also need to be able to count on localised scientific support. The devil is in the detail, and the details are complex.

Terrestrial examples have proven that land buyout by communities can be risky. They need to be financially stable. Local governance structures need to be flexible, yet robust. And what happens if they fail? Who takes responsibility?

But successful projects have brought measurable community benefits such as job creation, population retention (and growth), increased investments and improved facilities, as well as less quantifiable benefits such as social trust, belonging, a sense of place and identity, and new local democratic institutions.

I do not advocate the immediate sale of all ‘marine land’ to communities. But I do propose that we address the worrying absence of the seabed in land reform debates. And I propose that we address the worrying absence of community development in marine spatial planning. 

 

Islanders celebrate South of Arran MPA

South Of Arran MPA finally comes into effect along with 13 other MPAs.

Following 5 years of campaigning,  islanders celebrate the birth of the long awaited South Arran MPA.

Representatives from coastal communities, scallop divers, sea anglers and conservation organisations showed their passion and support for MPAs at Holyrood last month, coinciding with a Rural Affairs Committee debate on the future of MPAs. To the delight of thousands of MPA supporters on Arran and throughout Scotland, the committee voted against a motion to annul MPAs by Jamie McGrigor (cons) MSP by seven votes to two.

COAST‘s Andrew Binnie said: ‘The Scottish Government’s refusal to buckle to scaremongering from the mobile prawn lobby (also debunked in Scottish Environment LINK paper) means the South Arran MPA came into effect on 8th February 2016 along with legislation for a further 13 MPAs including the St Kilda World Heritage Site MPA. We are celebrating on Arran this week and looking forward to healthier and more productive seas around Arran and Scotland. This will benefit all marine stakeholders and future generations‘.

New Arran MPA Marine Discovery Centre scheduled

The South Arran MPA prohibits scallop dredging but still allows bottom trawling in outer areas of the MPA. Apart from in the existing small No Take Zone in Lamlash Bay, sea angling is permitted within the entire area as well as all other recreational activities.
As community and visitor surveys have shown a real demand for a Marine Discovery Centre on Arran, COAST is now fundraising to make this project come true.

Delay for the Small Isles MPA.

Mr Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs also announced that the Wester Ross and Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura Marine Conservation Orders went before parliament on 5th of February, meaning they will come into effect in late March.

Disappointingly, the Small Isles MPA will go back out to consultation and will now be delayed until at least the summer.

Dave Thompson SNP MSP for Skye and Lochalsh has written to Marine Scotland’s Marine Protection Area (MPA) Consultation strongly supporting the submission on the Small Isles MPA from the Mallaig and North West Fishermen’s Association.

Mr Thompson said, ‘I strongly support the modest changes to the Small Isles MPA that the MNWFA are requesting. These changes will mitigate the economic impact on the west’s fishermen of the MPA fishing restriction, but will not endanger any marine features.’

The Small Isles Community Council will in the meantime continue to support the proposals as they stand: ‘The Sound of Canna Fan Mussel colony is probably the most important wildlife asset in the Small Isles, at least on a par with the Manx Shearwater colony on Rum. It is a community asset and the feelings of the local community that support it should be respected. There is a national and an international responsibility to protect it and it will bring pride as well as economic benefits to the local area including the Small Isles by attracting a new strand of wildlife tourism.’

 

 

New Island resolution voted on in EU parliament

New Island resolution voted on in EU parliament on 4 February 2016

MEPs urge the European Commission to take concrete steps to address the permanent handicaps that EU islands face and make full use of their potential,  in a resolution voted on Thursday. The text also stresses the unique difficulties that southern insular regions face due to the increased migration flows and asks that special tax regimes should continue.

MEPs list the actions that they want the Commission to take to address the unique and vulnerable situation of EU islands. The resolution calls on the Commission to:

  • set up “a homogenous group made up of all island territories”, based on EU Treaty Article 174, which recognises the permanent handicaps of insular regions,
  • take account of other statistical indicators, besides GDP, which will reflect the economic and social vulnerability of these regions,
  • launch an in-depth study/analysis in the extra costs incurred as a result of being an island (e.g. transport system, energy supply and access to markets),
  • establish an “EU Strategic Framework for Islands” which would link up instruments that could have a major territorial impact, and
  • submit a communication on an “Agenda for EU Islands” and subsequently a White Paper to monitor the development of islands.

Islands exposed to migration flows

Parliament stresses that EU islands are also peripheral regions on the EU’s external borders. The southern areas and the many Mediterranean islands are particularly exposed to increased migration flows. MEPs ask for an EU-wide approach, “which should include EU support and a joint effort by all member states”, to help them.

Special tax regimes should continue

MEPs approved an amendment stressing “the importance of special tax arrangements for local communities and economies”- some EU islands have been granted special tax arrangements to counterbalance their permanent natural and demographic handicaps – and “calling for their continuation, especially in those member states that are under economic adjustment programmes”.

Resolution on the role of regional authorities

In a separate resolution voted on Thursday, MEPs ask that regional and local authorities be given a bigger role in managing EU structural and investment funds in 2014-2020, to help boost their impact.

Innovative EV programme for Mull and Iona

MIST-CAR-LOGO

Mull and Iona Sustainable Transport wins Rural Innovators Award 2015-16 for Transport

MIST’s aims to reduce CO2 emissions and dependance on fossil fuel  on Mull and Iona, have been recognised by this award from the Rural parliament.

As travel and transport choices account for up to half or more of many households’ total CO2 emission, Electric Vehicle trials, liftsharing coordination , efficient driving tips and information about switching to EVs are all part of this innovative project.

Funded by the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund, a team of 3 MIST Project Officers has been appointed to promote environmentally friendly island travel options through to March 2016.

EV hot spot events

With several EVs already being driven routinely here on the islands, 5 public charging points for EVs already operational and plans for rapid chargers in Tobermory and Fionnphort,  Mull is already well ahead of most other island communities. Recognising Mull as a ‘Hot Spot’ for EVs, the Energy Savings Trust has collaborated with MIST to present some special local events to bring all interested islanders up to speed with electric cars and incentives to switch.

Liftshare

The Mull and Iona Lift Share page established on Facebook has attracted over 350 members to engage, supportive of its purpose: To match willing drivers with willing passengers to share journeys. This group is open to any islander over 18 who is interested in linking up to share journeys.

EV trials

A Nissan LEAF electric car  has been purchased by MIST to enable islanders to enjoy the experience of driving with zero emissions and very low running costs. MIST is also acquiring an all electric Citroen Berlingo van for islanders and especially for island businesses to try out for free and to borrow. There is now a long list of folk who have expressed interest in free test drives and borrowing the car for a few days.

Following MIST’s successful collaboration with the Energy Savings Trust to host Electric Vehicle ‘Hot spot’ events on Mull, a Mitsubishi Highlander hybrid 4WD has been offered as a free loan, available for islanders to try out at no cost for a 2 months period.

Free EV training events offered to islanders on Mull and Iona

With several EVs already being driven routinely here on the islands, 5 public charging points for EVs already operational and plans for rapid chargers in Tobermory and Fionnphort, Mull is already well ahead of most other island communities.

On Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 February, MIST – –  is offering free training events to help current and prospective EV owners to look after their EV’s, and make the case for EVs as a suitable alternative for individuals and local groups.

Check the MIST website for more details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Successful end to SMILEGOV project

logothe-team

SMILEGOV Summary Report for Scottish Island Federation AGM December 2015, Terry Hegarty, SMILEGOV project officer

The Scottish Islands Federation (SIF) has recently completed involvement in a 30 month European project to support more effective approaches to strategic energy planning and development of sustainable energy projects on islands.

The SMILEGOV project’s acronym derives from ‘Smart Islands Governance’, a critical consideration for island communities aspiring to sustainability. The capacity of individual islands to comply with European energy targets widely depends upon collaborative planning and effective participatory engagement of key stakeholders. These typically include agencies of both local and central government, island community and business interests, land owners, energy companies, regulatory bodies and technology specialists.

Scotland offered a distinct model

Elsewhere in Europe, Municipal or Regional Authorities commonly lead development of sustainable energy projects and plans for islands. SIF has thus participated alongside 11 other networks spanning 163 island authorities throughout the Baltic, Mediterranean and Atlantic regions and beyond, nearly all represented by local government personnel. The ‘community NGO’ model for leading developments on Scottish islands with which SIF has worked is quite distinct and evidently of interest to some other consortium members, motivating a study group of Estonian Islanders to visit Mull in June 2015.

Parallel programmes of themed island energy workshops arranged and reported throughout Europe have effectively pooled information, knowledge and perspectives to enhance capacity for development of island energy plans and projects throughout SMILEGOV’s ‘clusters’.

Energy priorities for Islands

Energy priorities facing Islands were identified, drawn together and addressed, through SMILEGOV consultations and reports completed (or in the pipeline):

  • Mobility
  • Communication
  • Business Models
  • New Technologies
  • Smart Grids
  • Permit Processes
Identified constraints

In Scotland constraints facing island energy projects in Scotland notably include:

  • Grid constraints
  • Accessibility of data to inform plans
  • Planning constraints
  • Local capacity to lead developments
  • Consistency of government support
Best practice highlighted

Through SMILEGOV, difficulties, best practice and achievements have also been highlighted. See the SMILEGOV case studies of the project website at www.sustaianbleislands.eu.

SIF worked with Community Energy Scotland (CES) to monitor, support and report on progress of a number of individual energy projects within our cluster of Scottish Islands.

8 energy audits completed for Scottish islands

Inspired by SMILEGOV, and also supported by CES through Local Energy Scotland, SIF initiated a separate project to facilitate Island Energy Audits for participating Scottish islands. Each of eight resulting reports presents useful baseline data to inform more effective approaches to energy planning at island level. Follow up activity is already being pursued in the cases of Iona and The Small Isles

Islands as test beds 

Due to the generic nature of energy challenges facing islands, it is increasingly recognised in Scotland as elsewhere, that islands may serve as valuable test beds for emergent technologies, and proving grounds for more effective multilateral approaches to strategic local energy planning for sustainability.

 

 

Consultation on Provisions for a Future Islands Bill

 A more prosperous and fairer future for island communities ?

In September 2015, Transport and Islands Minister Derek MacKay MSP  launched a consultation to seek the views of island communities and other interested stakeholders on potential measures that may be included within a future Islands Bill.

Consulting on potential measures for inclusion in such a future bill is part of the work undertaken by the  re-convened Island Areas Ministerial Working Group to implement as many of the commitments from the ‘Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities’ prospectus as possible within the existing powers of the Scottish Parliament.

Commitment to the principle of subsidiarity and local decision making are said to be at the heart of this consultation which will help inform the Government’s thinking about what additional measures may be needed to help shape a more prosperous and fairer future for  island communities.

Interested stakeholders are invited to respond with their views on plans for more power and protection for Scotland’s islands.

 Island Proofing

Island proofing is the first topic in the consultation. The Scottish Islands Federation heartily welcomes the introduction of this concept as they have long campaigned for its introduction at all level of government, including the EU.

Empowering the islands

The commitments contained  in the  ‘Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities’ prospectus and in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act have made clear the Scottish Government’s support for the principles of subsidiarity.

However, what form would devolved power to the island take? The Scottish Islands Federation would like to see more power to island development trusts, island community Councils and island community benefit organisation alongside councils.  The vision contained within the 3 island councils’ document Our Islands, Our future’ is far reaching, but it may not have reach grass roots organisations as much as it should have.

The SIF would also like parity for councils with islands, as many its members are situated in the Argyll and Bute Council area, and A&B council, add well as Highland and North Ayrshire have yet to be invited to be part of the discussions which have taken place  with   the 3 island councils.

Giving islands more powers over the seabed surrounding them would be a great start in any case. More power to protect their fragile environment, marine and otherwise would also be very desirable.

A national plan for islands

One of the proposals for enshrining within a future Islands Act is the possibility of a duty for all future Scottish Governments to prepare a ‘National Islands Plan’, which would set out an on-going range of commitments across all policy areas of Government to support, promote and empower Island communities to build a wealthier and fairer future for themselves.

Linked to this duty, it would also be proposed that Ministers would have the ability to issue statutory guidance on island-proofing, which relevant public bodies would require to have regard to in connection with the exercising of their functions and duties.

The idea of national plan linked to statutory guidance on island proofing  is  measure that the Scottish Islands Federation is strongly supporting.  it would ensure that the challenging aspects of island life would be considered in detail and a better understanding of island live would be achieved, to ensure transport, education, health and all other fundamental areas of island life met island rather than mainland targets.

Constituency Protection for Na h-Eileanan an Iar

There is no doubt that the Western isles should enjoy the same status and constituency protection as the Orkney and Shetland councils.

Local Government Electoral Wards – populated Islands

This is a chance to address the thorny  issue of parity of representation with mainland areas. There is no one size fits all solution here, and some flexibility is required to ensure that populated islands have as a good a representation as they can.

Deadline for response: 23 December 2015

Here is a link to:

The consultation document

Argyll and Bute Council submission

Highland Council submission

Orkney Council submission

Shetland Council submission

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar submission

The Scottish Islands Federation response
1. Is the concept of ‘Island-Proofing’ something the Scottish Government should consider placing in legislation through the proposed Islands Bill? Yes

The islands across Scotland should have their permanent geographical handicap acknowledged in the law of Scotland, in the same way that islands, mountain areas and sparsely populated areas have their permanent natural or demographic handicap acknowledged by the Lisbon Treaty of Lisbon under Article 174 alongside an identification of the need to pay particular attention to these regions.

This means in practice that when considering any proposal, care should be taken as to check whether they are likely to adversely impact or disadvantage island areas, and if so, whether any mitigation measures or amendments are required to ensure that all of the islands around Scotland remain vibrant and viable communities which can compete with the rest of Scotland for new businesses, residents and visitors.

For the purpose of the law, isolated, rural peninsulas and some coastal areas adjacent to islands should also be considered to suffer from similar disadvantage so that any amendments or mitigation should also extended to these areas to ensure equality with their island neighbours.

Island proofing and rural proofing should go hand in hand.

2. If you answered ‘Yes’ to question 1, do you agree that Scottish Ministers should have the power to issue statutory guidance to other relevant public bodies related to Island-Proofing which they would be required to adhere to in exercising their functions and duties.

Yes

Island proofing should be considered at all levels of policy and decision making as islands clearly suffer from the “one size fits all” policies that do not met the requirements of their communities and may even affect negatively their economic and social well-being.

There should therefore be a requirement for statutory guidance on island-proofing processes to ensure that decisions on service delivery can be made with an awareness of the implications for island communities so that they are not specifically disadvantaged, and that on the contrary, decisions can lead to an increase of stability and economic viability for island populations.

3 If you answered ‘Yes’ to question 2, please state which public bodies, and what specific decisions this statutory guidance you think this should relate to?

All public bodies should be included, in particular Marine Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Highland and Island Enterprise, Local Authorities, NHS boards, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Community Planning partners.

Non ministerial government departments and Advisory bodies, Public corporations (Scottish Water, Highlands and Islands Airports) and Executive agencies such Transport Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, and Third sector inferface organisations (Housing associations and the like) should also be included in this list.

4. Are there any other areas that you feel the policy of Island-Proofing should cover?

The Scottish Government also needs to take into consideration the interests of the islands when negotiating with the UK government and the EU Commission, particularly when it comes to the Renewable Energy sector and the promotion of investment in electricity interconnections and removal of charges that are discriminatory against remote areas, eg high transmission charges, electricity price regulation in general (OFGEM) or the distribution of European Structural social funds. The Scottish government should also supporting local authorities with island responsibility and island councils to join in the Pact of islands and ensure a strong coalition of islands at the forefront of carbon reduction.

At EU level, The Scottish government needs to support a revision of state aid rules where they hamper transport links or social and economic activity on the islands, or a revision of state aid rules and measures to take into account the specific issues of food production on the smaller islands – especially meat production.

Another useful action would be to bring forward legislation, in accordance with Article 32 of EU Regulation 1151/2012*, which would create a new optional reserved term “product of island farming” to promote products whose raw material comes from or whose processing takes place on an island.

5. Do you agree that the current powers Island Councils, and Councils with Island responsibilities presently have are sufficient to deliver positive outcomes for their local island communities?

No

6.If you answered ‘No’ to question 5, please outline what additional powers you feel they require to benefit or better protect the island communities they serve, and explain the reasons for your answer.

The ownership and management of the seabed round the islands should not be devolved just to Edinburgh but passed on to the islands at the governance level which is appropriate. Such Control and management of the sea bed around the islands, would allow revenues currently paid to the Crown Estate to be channeled into local needs on the principle of subsidiarity as expressed in the document “ strengthening local democracy” which clearly demonstrates why “local matters”.

This income (from waters, seabed and foreshore) would ensure that local communities have a level of control over development in their local area and can also benefit directly from developments.

Apart from greater powers over the seabed and foreshore, it is difficult to anticipate what powers might be needed.

We therefore agree with the proposal by Cne-Siar for the bill to provide a mechanism whereby any such powers can be granted by secondary legislation where island councils and councils with island responsibilities can demonstrate by working with their communities that such additional powers would enable them to protect the island communities they serve better.

To deliver positive outcomes for their local island communities, the councils will also need to devolve what power they gain to more local levels – community councils and local Development trusts – as this would lead to positive outcomes commensurate with a greater community empowerment.

7. Do you feel there is a requirement to make any additions to the existing Zetland and Orkney County Council Acts of 1974?

The SIF has no opinion on the operation of the legislation and defers to the experience of the respective councils in this regard.

If ‘Yes’ please state what additions should be made and give the reasons for your answer.

8. Should any of the powers currently set out in the Zetland and Orkney County Council Acts of 1974 be extended to the Western Isles and other relevant Councils?

Yes

The powers associated with the Zetland and Orkney Acts have enabled positive action to be taken to ensure that communities in Shetland and Orkney can benefit from their natural resources, to the extent that they are now examples of subsidiarity and local empowerment in practice. Such principles being at the heart of island community empowerment, the same powers should be given to the other island local authorities or those that have islands in their territories.

These powers should allow the positive benefits that can be derived from the transfer of responsibility from national to local level so that local communities have a greater say in the harnessing of natural resources for community benefit.

9. Do you think the Scottish Government should introduce a ‘National Islands Plan’?

Yes

A National plan would be a positive development and allow for the monitoring of commitments as part of the island proofing process. It is important that there is an intention and understanding of the nature of consultation however, so that local communities on islands, which are the most fragile communities in the country in terms of services access, housing etc, can be genuinely consulted.

10. Are there any specific areas you feel the plan should cover and report on?

It would be beneficial for the islands to develop a National Islands Plan setting out a vision for the islands and the activities to be undertaken during the period of the plan to support the islands and ensure that they develop and prosper.

The Plan should consider 4 main priority areas:1/ energy independence for the island with transition to renewables 2/ promotion of island sustainability by encouraging primary food production 3/ transport connectivity 4/ developing integral sector policies

In detail, the plan should include:

  • The disbursement of powers and income, including income from The Crown Estate, to our island communities
  • Scottish Government capital investment in key island infrastructure such as ports, ferry terminals and vessels
  • Review of ferry fares and freight fares
  • Review of RET and its impact on tourism and local economy.
  • Island Sustainable Energy plans (recommendations for LA to set up ISEAPs goals and encouragement for them to join the Pact of Islands)
  • Investment in training and employment incentives for island based companies to boost island employment
  • creating opportunities for young people especially to make a worthwhile living on the islands.
  • Integration of transport networks including ferries, buses, air and rail connections to minimise journey times
  • Digital connectivity, for good reliable broadband.
  • Water and waste water infrastructure
  • Adequate GP, health worker and mental health and elderly care provision
  • Innovative, cost effective but high standard, affordable housing, appropriate for our extreme weather conditions
  • Adressing Fuel poverty
  • Zero waste and circular economy strategies (Islands are particularly suited to developing their own solution to waste which can be turned into a resource)
  • Developing quality tourism
  • Culture and language (Gaelic)
  • Parity for island communities with regard to mail order delivery surcharges
  • Protection of the islands’ marine and coastal environment including addressing issues of coastal erosion
  • Identifying any additional resources that might be required to implement the national plan
  • Ensuring that the implementation of the plan is based on the principle of subsidiarity and give a responsibility and place at local level in the plan to community councils and development trusts

11. If such a plan was introduced, what in your view would be an appropriate life span for the plan – e.g. 3 years/5 years/other?

The life time of a plan could coincide with the life span of each Scottish parliament, with the presentation of a draft plan within 3 months of its appointment subject to consultation for a further 3 months before the final plan is set, with the possibility of a review after 3 years if necessary.

Island communities, Community Councils and island Development trusts should have a large part to play in the consultation and the monitoring of the plan’s implementation by Scottish Government, its agencies and other bodies.

12. Do you agree that statutory protection should be given to the Na h-Eileanan an Iar Scottish parliamentary constituency?

Yes

There should be equal treatment for Na h-Eileanan an Iar. Each island group must have its own voice.

13. Should the Scottish Government consider amending the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004 to allow the LGBCS the power to make an exception to the usual 3 or 4 member ward rule for use with respect to populated islands?

Yes

The requirement for wards to have either 3 or 4 members does not necessarily reflect the natural groups of communities nor settlement patterns in some of the bigger islands. Councils such as Argyll and Bute Council argue that a better approach would be to allow the Council to vary the ratio of councillors to electors on islands so that an island ward, for example Bute, could have three councillors with only 5,000 electors rather than the 6,000 electors required in mainland wards (based on a parity figure of 1 councillor to 2,000 voters).

14. Please provide details of any additional issues, not addressed in your other responses, that you think should be considered in relation to the introduction of a future Islands Bill and its potential provisions.

Where local authorities are being invited onto bodies to advise on island issues, representatives from all local authorities with inhabited islands should be invited to attend. The differing and unique nature of each island is such that each local authority should have the opportunity to input to discussions

 

 

 

 

Argyll and Bute’s CROP: a successful model

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Argyll and Bute  Community Renewables Opportunity Portal (CROP) now up and running, is providing a really successful model of presentation and integration of renewable energy information for use by community groups.

The CROP pages on the Argyll and Bute website takes you to a well thought out process to help communities identify the right project for them.

From CROP Introduction to CROP Basic, CROP Benefits, CROP  Support to  CROP FAQ, there is plenty of information to get going.

Useful tools on these pages are the matrix which identifies which technologies might be most suited to the community, and the flowchart to help guide communities through the development process which they are considering.

Anaerobic digestion, Wind energy, Biomass, Solar, Heat pumps and Hydro are the main technologies presented, each with their relevant pages.

There is also a comprehensive list of organisations that can help and support, presented in a structured way for easy access. This was very much a result of the CROP consultation, where it became apparent that communities and individuals could get lost in the myriad of advice and guidance on renewable energy already available online.

CROP has  succeeded in  providing quick access to relevant and reliable information for the reader, whether they are new to the topic or not.