‘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: