It all started with an island network

The Scottish Islands Federation started as a local authority funded network in 2000. Its mission was to assist island organisations to express their points of views, share their experiences and make better representations at local, regional, national and European level on all issues affecting the sustainability of Scottish islands.

Getting together with other island organisations in the EU

In May 2001, the European Small Islands Network – ESIN – was set up to bring together Danish, Finnish, French, Irish, Scottish and Swedish small islands.  In 2005, ESIN formalised the network and became a Federation.

ESIN now has 11 members, with Estonia, Greece, Italy, Croatia and the Aaland islands joining in.  Once a year, members get together for the ESIN AGM, alternating between Brussels and an island host. ESIN is now working closely with other representative organisations: the CPMR’s Island Commission and FEDARENE‘s Island College.

Recognising islands’ specific situation

The islands worked together to get their national and local governments take into account Article 174 of the Lisbon Treaty in their policy making; Article 174 acknowledges the islands ‘ permanent geographical constraints and asks for specific measures to mitigate these.  

Article 174 was the inspiration behind “Our islands, Our future” the 2013 document which has led to the setting up of the National Island Plan for Scotland.

Meeting the Challenges

ESIN’s INTERREG 111C funded project – ‘Meeting the Challenges of Small Islands’ – aimed to make decision makers understand the smaller islands challenges. Many Scottish Islanders and island organisations took part in this exchange, which looked at a wide variety of themes pertinent to island life, enabling islanders from 6 European countries to share their experiences of sustainable development.

Concluding with a final conference on Islay in November 2006, the exchange results were disseminated to help influence national and EU policies in favour of small islands.  You can read the project report here.

Turning challenges into opportunities:

The exchanges showed how the islands’ geographical isolation can also lead to opportunities:

  • They come up with innovative solutions and community-led initiatives to ensure their island remain vibrant and strong.
  • They are especially suited to the demonstration of sustainable and integrated solutions, especially regarding waste, the environment, energy, transport, baseline services and cultural products.
  • They act as guardians of their natural and cultural environment, preserving the common heritage of their country as well as Europe.

To take advantage of these opportunities, islands need to develop in a way that allows their population to remain sustainable, enabling islanders to live and work on their island as well as attracting new residents.

From network to federation

Changing from a network into a federation in 2007 has allowed SIF to respond to the islands’ desire for a more representative, active and vocal organisation. 

Getting involved in further EU projects like Intelligent Energy Europe funded project SMILEGOV helped SIF to become closely involved in islands becoming leaders in Low Carbon communities and Clean EU Energy Islands policies.

Today the Scottish Islands Federation continues to promote, publicise and advance the interests and sustainability of Scotland’s islands.  Its mission has grown to include supporting the implementation of the National Island Plan.  It is funded by the Scottish Government as well as members’ fees.