Empowering our island communities

Islands (Scotland) Act 2018

The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 was granted Royal Assent in July 2018. The Act introduces measures to support and help meet the unique needs of Scotland's islands now and in the future. It will also seek to help create the right environment for sustainable growth and empowered communities.

National Islands Plan

A provisions within the Act (at section 3), requires the Scottish Ministers to develop a National Islands Plan (December 2019). According to the Act, the purpose of the Plan is ‘to set out the main objectives and strategy of the Scottish Ministers in relation to improving outcomes for island communities that result from, or are contributed to by the carrying out of functions of a public nature.'

Island Community Impact Assessments (ICIA)

Another provision of the Islands (Scotland) Act is for all relevant authorities to complete an island community impact assessment (ICIA). Our islands face particular challenges around distance, geography, connectivity and demography, so it is important that policy makers consider these properly. It is also important that you make sure islands receive fair and equitable treatment and that your policy, strategy or service outcomes are tailored to their unique circumstances.

Islands community impact assessment (ICIA) guidance and toolkit 

We have included for reference the ICIA carried out for the guidance and toolkit as well as the analysis of responses following the consultation.

To compliment the guidance, we have a video to introduce beginners to the process of completing an ICIA.

We also have a leaflet to provide an overview of the ICIA process. This has been designed to support those working through an assessment.

Application form for a Review of a Decision under the Review of Island Communities Impact Assessments Decisions (Scotland) Regulations under Section 9 of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018

Contact e-mails of relevant authorities who are required to comply with the duties under Sections 7 to 12 of the Act are available. Please note, that applicants / interested parties should not send their information to the Scottish Government where the Scottish Government is not the Relevant Authority. 

Privacy notice 

The Island Communities Impact Assessments (Publication and Review of Decisions) (Scotland) Regulations 202 privacy notice only covers information being received where the relevant authority is the Scottish Government. It is for other Relevant Authorities to ensure that they have their own privacy notice arrangements in place for the process.

Impact assessments completed for Regulations –


We established the Islands Strategic Group to consider strategic issues affecting the inhabited island communities of Scotland and to ensure greater involvement of the relevant councils in helping to identify and design solutions to the unique needs and challenges these communities face.

The National Islands Plan Delivery Group

In 2021, the National Islands Plan Delivery Group was established to support implementation of the National Islands Plan . The Group provides a collaborative working space shared between Scottish Government, local authorities and key stakeholders As well as supporting the National Islands Plan, it also provides input and guidance on the Implementation Route Map (PDF).

The Carbon Neutral Islands Project

The Carbon Neutral Islands (CNI) project is a 2021 to 2022 programme for government commitment aimed at supporting six islands to become carbon neutral by 2040. Read more in the carbon neutral islands project page


In 2013 Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Orkney Islands Council and Shetland Islands Council launched the Our Islands - Our Future campaign, which sought to ensure that the needs of island areas were taken into account, and the particular nature of Scotland's three main island areas recognised. We formed the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group to consider how Scotland's island areas could be supported and empowered.

In June 2014 the Group published the Empowering Scotland's Island Communities prospectus, which set out proposals for increased autonomy for island communities. In this we recognised that, while all three islands councils are in a unique position, Scotland has 93 inhabited islands in total whose communities could all benefit from greater empowerment.

From 29 September to 23 December 2015 we consulted on provisions for a future islands bill. The analysis of responses to the islands bill consultation was published in March 2016, along with an Empowering Scotland's Island Communities: progress update which outlined the work that we, our agencies and the island councils are doing to help support and sustain Scotland's island communities.

In August 2016 we established the Islands Strategic Group to build on the work of the previous Island Areas Ministerial Working Group and the Empowering Scotland's Island Communities prospectus.

Islands Programme

On 31 January 2023 the Scottish Government announced a £4 million funding package to help improve infrastructure on Scotland’s islands. 

The 2023/24 Islands Programme is open to applications from the six local authorities with responsibility for islands to fund the improvement, creation or safeguarding of locally developed infrastructure projects.

The IP is being delivered on a competitive bid basis and opened for applications for the financial year 2023/24 on 31 January 2023.

The funding is part of the £25.8 million Islands Programme, established to support the implementation of the National Islands Plan. This is a landmark strategy to improve the quality of life for island communities with 13 objectives, and over 100 specific measures to address:

  • population decline
  • sustainable economic development
  • transport
  • housing and fuel poverty
  • digital connectivity
  • health, social care and wellbeing
  • climate change and energy
  • arts, culture and language
  • education
  • empowerment of island communities

Eligible organisations

The Islands Programme is open to applications from all six of Scotland’s local authorities with offshore inhabited islands:

  • Shetland Islands Council
  • Orkney Islands Council
  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Argyll and Bute Council
  • Highland Council
  • North Ayrshire Council

Eligible projects

Applications are not restricted in geography, size or type of project. It will be for applicant organisations to demonstrate that projects fit with the aims and objectives of the fund and to demonstrate an intrinsic link to one or more of the Islands Plan Strategic Objectives. Local authorities are limited to five applications each. No financial limit per application will be set.

Application process

All applications will be subject to scrutiny by the Islands Programme Investment Panel, which will make final recommendations on projects to be funded.

Scottish Futures Trust will bring its expertise, resource and capabilities to support the delivery of the Islands Programme. This will include close working with local authorities and other key stakeholders during the application process and to ensure completion of projects and desired outcomes and impacts are achieved. 

Further information

If you have any questions on the fund, please email them to ann.macdonald@scottishfuturestrust.org.uk.

Islands bond

The delivery of the proposed Islands Bond policy has been very carefully considered following feedback received during the 2021 online consultation, the in person workshops held in 2022, and within the context of our wider focus on addressing depopulation. As a result of the feedback received, we have taken a decision to withdraw the Islands Bond proposal. Instead, the learnings and suggestions gathered through the Islands Bond consultation and workshops will be utilised in shaping a range of Practical Policy Tests to inform the ‘Addressing Depopulation Action Plan’ which we hope to publish in 2023. This work will be driven forward over the remainder of 2022 and into 2023, in close collaboration with island communities, by delivering interventions that respond to unique island needs.

There is more information in the Islands Bond consultation analysis (August 2022) and the accompanying Scottish Government response which sets out the decision that has been taken on the direction of travel for this policy in greater detail.


Emaiil: info@islandsteam.scot

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