Scottish islands and the EU

The EU recognises the special status of islands in Article 174 of the Lisbon treaty, but much lobbying is required to make the EU understand islands’ specific issues and challenges.  The Scottish Islands Federation’s EU manifesto of 2009 provides the foundation  for its lobbying activities at EU level.

The Islands Champion Pledge

Together with the other ESIN members, S.I.F. produced the islands champion pledge which was presented to each island EU parliament candidate during the 2014 Eu parliamentary campaign. In this pledge, MEPs are asked

  • to lobby politicians at all levels and others to provide policies to encourage people to continue to live and work on Islands and ensure that Island residents get equal access to services on the Islands
  • to lobby for positive incentives for companies and individuals creating jobs and sustaining employment in islands
  • to support all efforts to increase access to fast and effective broadband and mobile coverage to our islands.
  • to support the expansion of renewable energy production on islands, particularly the development of microgeneration for indigenous use, promotion of investment in electricity interconnections and lobbying against charges that are discriminatory against remote areas, eg high transmission charges
  • to support a transport system to the European Islands that supports the needs of resident island population and of businesses, and to lobby for the revision of state aid rules where they hamper transport links.
  • to lobby for 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.
  •  to push the Commission 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.
  •  to support the establishment of an Islands Intergroup in the European Parliament.

On the 7th March 2014 in Tobermory, on the isle of Mull, Alyn Smith MEP was the first candidate to sign the Islands Champion Pledge.

Sandy Brunton, S.I.F. spokesperson, said: ‘We have worked on this pledge with our colleagues from Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Aaland and France.

‘If MEPs in all the ESIN countries sign this pledge, it will go a long way towards ensuring the formation of a strong island lobbying group in the EU parliament and a better understanding of how legislation must take the islands situation into consideration. We are delighted that Alyn Smith is the first MEP to sign this pledge, as he has been behind this initiative from the very beginning.’

Alyn Smith says: ‘Scottish Islands are of great importance to our economy and contribute substantially with agriculture, fishing, tourism and energy resources and expertise. However, islands communities also face challenges and it’s up to us, politicians, to make sure that we focus on the specific needs of our islands.

‘The EU already offers support to islands via various projects and exchanges and today I pledge to fight for more. I hope my fellow Euro candidates will follow the suit and recognise the diverse needs of communities across Scotland; this way we can ensure fair and adequate representation for the Scottish Islands in Europe.’

Scottish MEPs and their EU groupings affiliations

Unsure about what EU grouping affiliation means?  To understand it better, read this article by Josep M. Colomer ‘How political parties rather than member states are building the European Union.’

  • Ian Hudghton  01382 623200  UK office;; SNP; EU group: group of the Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA);committees: fisheries (member), internal market and Consumer protection
  • Struan Stevenson 0131 524 0030 UK Office;Conservative party; EU group: European Conservatives and Reformist Group (ECR); committees: fisheries (vice-chair) environment, public health and food safety (substitute)
  • Alyn Smith 0131 525 8926; Uk Office; SNP; EU group: group of the Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA); Committees: Agriculture and Rural development (member); Industry, Health and Energy (substitute)
  • George Lyon, 0141 887 5332 ;Uk office;; Liberal Democrats; EU group: Group of the alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Committees: Budgets (vice-chair), Agriculture and Rural development (member), fisheries (substitute)
  • Catherine Stihler 01383 417 799; UK Office; ; Labour; EU group: Group of the progressive alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the EU Parliament (S&D); committees: internal market and consumer protection (member) Economic and Monetary affairs (substitute)
  • David Martin 0131 440 9040; UK office;david.martin@europarl.europa.euLabour; EU group: Group of the progressive alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the EU Parliament (S&D); Committees: International trade (member) ,Constitutional affairs (member), Human rights (Member)

The Scottish Islands Federation EU Manisfesto

  1. Island Affairs Committee : DG Regio has two priorities for its programme of work :   Territorial Cohesion and the future of the Regional Policy. SIF supports ESIN’s proposal to set up an ISG (Inter-service Group) or Islands Affairs Committee as the mean for an integrated approach which would ensure islands‘ needs are being considered appropriately.
  2. Island economy: To ensure the sustainability of island activities, the special non-market position of island economies must be taken into account. SMEs and VSEs should receive appropriate aid, such as higher rates of subsidies granted to projects on islands. This could enable cost overruns related to insularity to be integrated without distorting the market, seeing the limited amount of investments made on islands
  3. Shipping sector: Island transport quality and cost is vital, because of its “lifelines” nature linking the islands to the mainland. Transport activities are also a significant source of permanent jobs for island communities. However, the rules of free competition (calls for tenders) imposed on local companies can threaten this link and the related jobs. There must be specific measures to protect islanders’ interests in terms of shipping (island-mainland links), such as the extension of RET to all islands in Scotland.
  4. Traditional island fisheries activities: It is hard to measure the value of traditional island fisheries activities because they go beyond simple economic consequences. These activities provide a structuring effect and contribute to balanced socio-economic situations on islands. To ensure their sustainability, the CFP must acknowledge how vitally important they are to islands and take account of their geographical specificities.
  5. Protection of island communities: Island communities are very fragile with respect to economic and structural changes. Maintaining permanent inhabitants with improved access to public services, like housing and jobs, is essential to ensure that the islands’ biodiversity and ecosystems on a European scale are maintained in good conditions.
  6. Sustainable tourism: Islands’ special features make them excellent places to develop sustainable tourism based on quality and a wide range of choices. However, the quality of life on small islands must be assured year round for the island permanent populations and should not meet solely the seasonal demand from tourism. Greater vigilance must be exercised in developing tourist activities, whose main purpose should be to improve the quality of life of local populations.
  7. Islands and global warming: Climate change has already caused changes to plankton, to fish distribution and to the variety of species found in the seas around the UK. The loss of sandeels in our waters has been so pronounced it has been affecting seabird populations, notably black-legged kittiwake, terns and skuas. Climate change also makes it likely that non-native species will flourish in our seas, and affect fisheries and aquaculture. European directives must help fight the effect of climate change in our waters.
  8. Protection of the marine environment. Islands are particularly exposed to the rise in storm surges and climate hazards (drought, floods, landslides, etc.) as well as increased erosion risk. Protection of the coastal and marine environment must be one of Europe’s Top priorities. To fit into the integrated management approach highlighted by the European Commission, protecting the marine environment must involve the islands and islanders, acting as sentries in the framework of local management. This protection should include better knowledge about island areas in the form of island databases and increased surveillance of surrounding waters in order to predict these risks and find ways to plan for them.
  9. Islands as pilot projects: Islands, and the smaller islands in particular, have to innovate to meet the various challenges that arise from their insularity. Their geographical features lend themselves beautifully to pilot projects, particularly ion the field of renewable energies. Setting up pilot projects there presents a scientific interest and enables the large investment costs that island authorities generally cannot shoulder to be factored in. A good example is the Isle of Eigg with its pioneering stand-alone renewable energy system. Initiatives using new technologies should receive special support since they can help reduce the constraints of insularity and increase access to jobs and services.