Consultation on provisions for a future islands bill: analysis of responses

This report presents the findings of an independent analysis of responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on provisions for a future islands bill, undertaken by Reid-Howie Consultants Ltd.

1. Background And Context

1.1. This report presents the findings of an analysis of responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on provisions for a future Islands Bill.


1.2. Since 2013, there has been an increased focus on the place of island areas in Scotland and the roles of national and local government in addressing the issues they face. There has been growing recognition of both the strengths of Scotland's island areas and the challenges they face.

1.3. Three island local authorities (Shetland Islands Council, Orkney Islands Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar) launched a campaign in 2013, entitled "Our Islands - Our Future (Ar n-Eileanan - Ri teachd)" to highlight such issues.

1.4. The "Lerwick Declaration" was made in response to the campaign. In July 2013, the then First Minister, on behalf of the Scottish Government, announced the establishment of a Ministerial Working Group (the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group) to look at further empowerment for island communities. The declaration stated the Scottish Government's commitment to the principle of subsidiarity and local decision-making.

1.5. The Working Group (involving the island authorities and the Scottish Government) was instrumental in developing a series of proposals, some of which formed the basis of the current consultation. In June 2014, the Scottish Government published the "Empowering Scotland's Island Communities" prospectus [1] . This set out a package of measures to empower Scotland's islands, which was predicated on the transfer of all powers to the Scottish Parliament in the event of a Yes vote in the 2014 Independence Referendum.

1.6. The prospectus committed the Scottish Government to: providing island communities with greater control over economic, fiscal and environmental issues; ensuring that island communities were represented in government; and that relevant measures implemented at a national and local level were properly "proofed". At the centre of the proposals was a commitment to produce an Islands Bill.

1.7. In February 2015, the Ministerial Working Group was reconvened to implement as many of the prospectus commitments as possible within the existing powers of the Scottish Parliament, and any future powers that would come through the Smith Commission recommendations and future Scotland Bill. As part of this work, it was considered important to seek wider views on the provisions which may be included in a future Islands Bill, and this consultation was carried out to gather these views. The findings will help to inform the Scottish Government's consideration of the way forward.

The consultation

1.8. The consultation ran from 30 th September 2015 until 23 rd December 2015. A consultation document [2] was issued and this explored views of:

  • Island-proofing.
  • Empowering Island Communities.
  • A National Islands Plan.
  • Statutory Protection to the Na h-Eileanan an Iar Scottish parliamentary constituency.
  • Amending the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004
  • Any other issues for consideration in a future Islands Bill.

1.9. The consultation asked 14 questions. Eight of these questions asked respondents to express their agreement or disagreement with an aspect of the proposals, while the remainder asked for general views of particular issues. Almost all of the questions provided an opportunity for respondents to give detailed information. A full list of the questions is provided at Annex 1.

1.10. A response form was provided on which respondents could record their answers, and they were also asked to complete a Respondent Information Form ( RIF) giving their own details.

Submissions and respondents

1.11. A total of 192 responses were received. The types of respondent are set out in Table 1 (below). A full list of respondents is provided at Annex 2.

Table 1. Respondents by category

Category No. % [3]
Individuals 125 65
Community Councils 19 10
Third Sector organisations 11 6
Public bodies 10 5
Representative bodies, trade bodies or trade unions 10 5
Local authorities 7 4
Private sector organisations or trusts 5 3
Politicians or political parties [4] 3 2
Others 2 1

1.12. As is clear from the table, the largest number of responses were from individuals.

1.13. The majority of respondents addressed the specific questions and followed the format of the response form, although not all of them addressed all of the questions. A total of 10 respondents did not follow the form, and provided their response either at Question 14 or in a separate document. Five respondents requested that their response should be treated as confidential.

Analysis of the data and presentation of the information

1.14. The analysis of the data involved a number of stages, which were:

  • Design of an Access database to include the data for each question.
  • Input of verbatim material provided by the Scottish Government.
  • Quantitative analysis (where appropriate).
  • Preparation of a series of Word documents for the qualitative material, containing all responses to each question.
  • Identification of the key themes and sub-themes for each question.
  • Summary of the findings and preparation of this report.

1.15. The presentation of the information involves some quantitative material, although most of the detail is qualitative. The quantitative information includes:

  • The number of respondents overall, and the number / proportions of different types of respondents (Table 1 above).
  • The proportion of respondents who answered each question.
  • The views expressed at the "yes/no" questions.

1.16. Pie charts have been used to give a visual presentation of the quantitative findings at the "yes/no" questions.

1.17. The additional comments made at each question ( e.g. where respondents were asked to give reasons for their answer, or to provide more general views) also provided a large amount of additional qualitative detail. It would be inappropriate to attempt to quantify these views for a number of reasons, including that:

  • Many of the detailed points were made at different questions. To avoid too much repetition, these were included at the most relevant question.
  • Some responses represented the views of a number of individuals or organisations.
  • The focus of the qualitative analysis was on the range and nature of views, rather than a "weighing" of responses.
  • The respondents were self-selecting. As such, it is not possible to generalise from these findings.

1.18. Qualitative terms ( e.g. "a small number"; "a few"; "several"; "many"; etc.) are used to present the detailed information, and the overall themes and range and depth of views are described. The report cannot provide a compendium of the consultation material, nor present every individual point made, as there was a large volume of detailed information. It does, however, summarise the themes and issues raised, even where these involved small numbers of respondents. The full text of the responses can be viewed on the Scottish Government website [5] .

1.19. The wording used to present the qualitative material sometimes follows the wording of a response closely, to ensure the message is represented accurately (although not presented as a "quote"). Quotations have not been presented in the report, as this might imply that the views of one respondent carried more weight than another.

1.20. There were no clear variations in patterns of views by type of respondent, given the large proportion of responses from individuals. For that reason, the report does not list the types of respondent identifying each individual theme, as this would make the report difficult to read.

1.21. The term "respondent" refers to one response, even if it represents the views of more than one contributor. A small number of respondents endorsed another response in full. In these cases, their answers have been taken to be the same as those in the endorsed response.

1.22. The remainder of the report presents the findings of the consultation analysis, as follows.

  • Section 2: island-proofing (Questions 1-4).
  • Section 3: Empowering Island Communities (Questions 5-8).
  • Section 4: A National Islands Plan (Questions 9-11).
  • Section 5: Statutory Protection to the Na h-Eileanan an Iar Scottish parliamentary constituency (Question 12); amending the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004 (Question 13); and any other issues for consideration in a future Islands Bill (Question 14).


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