Foreword by the Chair of the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group
Since the summer of 2013 the Scottish Government has been working in partnership with our Island Councils to take forward the aspirations behind the Our Islands Our Future campaign not just for the benefit of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, but for all of Scotland's 93 island communities.
There is no questioning the significant contribution our islands make both from a cultural and economic perspective to Scotland, but they do face specific challenges around their geographic remoteness, declining populations, transport and digital connectivity and supporting sustainable economic growth. The establishment of the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group demonstrated the Scottish Government's strong commitment to tackling these challenges. The work the group has taken forward since 2013 has been focused on identifying opportunities to enable our island communities to flourish and prosper by supporting economic growth, job creation and improving services and connectivity.
The Empowering Scotland's Island Communities prospectus published in June 2014 set out a blue print of commitments identified by the Scottish Government and the Island Councils as priority areas for action. The delivery of these commitments was at the very heart of the First Minister's decision in her first Programme for Government Statement to re-convene the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group in 2015.
Many key commitments have already been delivered and here we are publishing a progress update on key achievements. This update illustrates the work that the Scottish Government, its agencies and the Island Councils are taking forward across key areas to help support and sustain all of Scotland's island communities. Whilst key commitments have been achieved, work continues in other important areas and I expect to see positive progress in the months ahead.
I am also delighted to be publishing the emerging findings from the consultation undertaken towards the end of 2015 seeking views on provisions for a future Islands Bill. All the views expressed will help inform the future development of a draft Islands Bill. Such a Bill will be a key way of drawing together the various work streams of the Ministerial Group and channelling our focus to ensuring we provide real change for all our island communities.
I believe the work begun back in 2013 has placed the needs and aspirations of all our island communities at the very centre of the Government's empowerment agenda. We have started a very positive journey and made good progress, however, there is more to do. I believe that journey will continue and it will lead to the delivery of lasting benefits for generations to come.
Minister for Transport and Islands