Island communities impact assessments: guidance and toolkit

This guidance provides the tools to help you complete an Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA) as required under the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 (the Act). In particular, this guidance is about the Section 7 duty of the Act where a Relevant Authority must have regard to island communities.

Carrying out your Island Communities Impact Assessment

1. Understand your objective

2. Assess impact on islands

3. Consultation

4. Assessment


5. ICIA:

a) describe significant impact (1+2+3)

6. b) consider to make adustments

ICIA Publication


5b. Publication of explanation

Step One – Develop a clear understanding of your objectives:

A good ICIA will be most effective when considered early and throughout the whole duration of development and implementation of your policy, strategy or service. We strongly suggest that you begin your ICIA at the very beginning of your work so that the needs of island communities are held in mind as you develop your thinking.

You should consider the scale of each individual ICIA. While some ICIAs will be completed quickly – given the scope of the policy, strategy or service – others will necessitate a longer period of consultation or data gathering. We suggest that this should be factored in during the planning stage.

It is important to emphasise that consultation can be used to support different steps of an assessment to gather islands data and obtain different island perspectives for your proposals. While Step Three specifically addresses consultation, it might also be considered necessary or beneficial at all other steps throughout the process.

Your first step should be to develop a clear understanding of the objectives and intended outcomes of your policy, strategy or service and then, more specifically, to identify if there are explicit island needs or any potential direct or indirect impacts for island communities. Remember to think about each island individually because what might not have any impact on one, may impact adversely on another. If you have any questions about the impact your work might have on an island, please don't hesitate to contact the Islands Team for advice.

Things to remember in Step One:

  • If your policy, strategy or service is a regional or area-based one or if it is intended to have the same impact across the region or area, you should think about whether there are potential island impacts which differ from the regional impact or whether there are any barriers which may unfairly disadvantage islanders.
  • For policies, strategies, and services which are wholly or mainly aimed at island communities, you should consider whether there is a need to adapt your plans to account for variations across island communities. Island communities are unique and there can be lots of variation across things like proximity to services, transport links and infrastructure.
  • If your policy, strategy or service is mainland-focused, you should consider if there is a corresponding need in island communities, and think about how this has been otherwise taken into account or catered for.
  • It's also a good idea to identify any benefits for the island community, such as better access to services.

Step Two – Gather your data:

In Step Two, you should begin to dig deeper and examine the differences that occur in islands communities, and between island groups, in contrast to mainland Scotland. Where possible, robust island data should be considered to identify these differences – this can include statistics, stakeholder views and other data.

Sourcing of islands level data can sometimes be difficult but we can help you with this. As the ICIA process develops, there will be a repository of data which can be sourced including the percentage of Gaelic speakers across island communities

You may already have evidence from other consultations, customer feedback and monitoring exercises that you could refer to. You could also draw on additional information such as national surveys and any available island level data. You might also find it helpful to look at the Right First Time[6] practical guide for public authorities in Scotland to decision-making.

You may also find it useful to look at examples of ICIAs on

Once you've considered what the evidence tells you about the impact and whether this is significantly different for island communities or between island groups, you should consider whether there are any gaps in your information and how these should be filled. Do you need this information before you can carry out an ICIA? You may want to produce an interim report detailing the extent to which there is or there is not an impact on islands that is different from what can be expected on the mainland.

Things to remember in Step Two:

  • You might want to consider working with island experts and contacts from different organisations such as the Scottish Islands Federation.
  • Make sure that you give yourself enough time to carefully collate and consider all of the available data and information.
  • Do you want to produce an interim report detailing the extent to which there is or there is not an impact on islands that is different from what can be expected on the mainland?

Step Three – Consultation:

In Step Three you can engage further with the people likely to be affected by your policy, strategy or service. As previously indicated, earlier consultation could be beneficial or necessary at Steps One and Two.

The importance of consultation cannot be emphasised enough. Effective consultation will ensure that your ICIA will be based on meaningful engagement with island communities from inception to conclusion. By providing feedback, you will also build a stronger, more meaningful and productive relationship with island communities.

Consultation should adhere to the following principles:

  • Continuous – Stakeholder engagement and consultation should begin as early as possible and continue until your proposal is complete.
  • Broad-Based – Consideration of the scope of consultation about your proposal should be wide enough to include all those affected and ensure a full spectrum of diversity in views and opinions.
  • Not Burdensome – Timeframes for consultation should be realistic and should not impose additional unnecessary workloads on organisations or people who may be expected to respond to multiple consultations over a period. This could result in "consultation fatigue" and may reduce the quality of the responses you receive.
  • Transparent – You should outline the objectives of your consultation and the context surrounding your proposal. All relevant supporting information should be made available.
  • Consistent and Flexible – Use of a consistent framework for consultation allows respondents to become familiar with the process and can negate concerns for respondents in relation to fatigue from responding to numerous different frameworks.
  • Subject to Evaluation and Review – Consultation processes should be evaluated, reviewed and updated as a means towards continuous improvement.
  • Defined Goals – Consultations should be "a means rather than an end". They should be used as a means of informing decision-making rather than a substitute for decision-making.

Consultation can give you lots of good information on the likely impact of your work, as well as providing you with a wider context relating to specific islands and the people who live on them. However, carrying out a consultation is just one of the arrangements that the Relevant Authorities may find useful when reviewing their policies, strategies and services.

The most appropriate stakeholders to engage with will vary from case to case, but you should make it easy for people to give their views by using meetings as well as written consultations, ensuring materials are available in different formats such as large print or in appropriate languages like Gaelic. You should give particular consideration to island communities and their community councils and how best to ensure ease of participation. It's also important to remember that not everybody on an island has or chooses to have access to the internet. We suggest that your questions are tailored and directed specifically to island communities in respect of any proposal.

Things to remember in Step Three:

  • Where appropriate, you should make your consultation materials available in Gaelic and any other appropriate language.
  • You might want to consider using local print media, local radio and posters as not every island has reliable access to the web. Don't rely on people looking things up on the internet.
  • Think about the weather and travel. Getting to the islands can be tricky at certain times of the year. You may want to think about holding your consultation events virtually.
  • Consider speaking to the Scottish Government's Islands Team who will be able to give you advice on how best to reach out to island communities.
  • Are there any other consultations or processes that you could link into?
  • Consider developing a communication plan for reaching your target audience, and encouraging and using input and feedback?

Step Four – Assessment:

Once you've carried out your consultation, you should set out your analysis of the results or outcomes, the needs of island communities and the potential impacts of your work. We've provided you with a template at Annex B which you could use to record your findings.

It might be that there are no significant impacts on the island community, but you should still be careful to record this and evidence the process in reaching that conclusion.

A crucial part of your assessment is determining whether in your opinion your policy, strategy or service is likely to have an effect on an island community which is significantly different from its effect on other communities (including other island communities).

In effect, a Relevant Authority must not make a decision that is so unreasonable that no reasonable person acting properly could have taken it. This will require to be taken into account by you when making a determination about what the likely significantly different effect could be.

In forming an opinion on whether your policy, strategy or service is likely to have an effect on an island community which is significantly different from its effect on other communities (including other island communities), the following should be considered.

  • Does the evidence show different circumstances or different expectations or needs, or different experiences or outcomes (such as different levels of satisfaction, or different rates of participation)?
  • Are such different effects likely?
  • Are such different effects significant?
  • Could the effect amount to a disadvantage for an island community compared to the mainland or between island groups?

We've included here some questions which you could consider when thinking about the potential impact of your work on island communities. In particular you should aim to link your assessment to the National Islands Plan Strategic Objectives.


A key issue for islands is the relatively small number of children and young people and people of working age.

Key things to consider:

Q. Does your proposal take into consideration the current demographic structure of the islands and the challenges faced by populations that might have a greater percentage of older people than other areas?

Q. Could your policy exacerbate the islands' demographic challenges? For example, could it encourage young people to leave the island?


The islands' main industries are significant employers and make a vital contribution to wellbeing as well as being extremely important from an environmental perspective.

Key things to consider:

Q. Will your policy, strategy or service have any particular impacts on the key island industries and, therefore, on the islands' economies and environments?

Q. Will your policy, strategy or service have an impact on the islands' infrastructure or natural environment and biodiversity?

Q. If a fast or high-capacity broadband or mobile network will play a significant part in implementing your policy, strategy or service, how can alternative mechanisms be used to ensure fair access for the islands?

Q. Will your policy, strategy or service have any impact on the types of small businesses which are a feature of the islands' economies? Specifically, if the policy is to be delivered through suppliers, will there be a requirement for those suppliers to meet accreditation standards that are more difficult for islands companies to achieve?

Q. Has the cost and time taken in travelling between island communities been taken into consideration – particularly for those on low incomes or reliant on infrequent public transport?


Deprivation and social exclusion in the islands tends to be dispersed, unlike more populated areas where there is a tendency for deprivation to be concentrated.

Key things to consider:

Q. If a measure of deprivation is to be used to target your initiative; does it take into account dispersed deprivation in islands?

Q. Will your policy have a cost of living impact? Is there any risk that impact could be in island communities?

Q. Will your policy have an impact on households experiencing fuel poverty?

Q. Does your policy make any consideration for the part-time and self-employed nature of many island jobs? The availability of childcare provision in island communities may be of particular relevance.

The profile of Gaelic is important to many island communities. Public authorities operating in island communities have the potential to make an important contribution to Gaelic in sectors such as employment, housing, education, arts, community matters and more. The questions below ask public authorities to consider Gaelic in island communities.

With reference to your policies, strategies and services could you make clear in your ICIA what the impact is on the Gaelic language in island communities, if any, compared to other areas (including other island communities) and what (if any) support you are currently providing?

If an ICIA indicates that policies, strategies and services are having (or are likely to have) an impact on the Gaelic language, which could result in island communities being impacted in a significantly different way from other areas (including other island communities), what steps are being taken by your authority, in line with the National Islands Plan, to mitigate or improve their impact on the Gaelic language?

You may consider at this step that further, more refined, consultation would help you form your opinion.

Once you've finished your assessment of whether your policy, strategy or service is likely to have an effect on an island community which is significantly different from its effect on other communities (including other island communities), the outcome will determine if you need to do an ICIA. Section 8[7] is the relevant part of the Islands Act and is Step Five.

If you do not prepare an ICIA in relation to a policy, strategy or service which has an effect on an island community, you must publish, as soon as reasonably practicable, an explanation of your reasons for not carrying out an ICIA. The flow chart that accompanies this guide sets this out for you.

Things to remember in Step Four:

  • Have you considered what the potential barriers or wider impacts might be and how you aim to address these? You should have regard to demographic, economic and social considerations.
  • Are the differences you've identified significantly different for the island community compared to mainland or other islands?
  • Have you considered if any effects amount to a disadvantage for an island community compared to the mainland or between island groups?
  • Have you recorded your findings carefully in case you are asked to carry out a review of your ICIA?
  • If you have concluded that you do not need to carry out an ICIA, where will you publish your reasons for not doing one?

Step Five – Preparing your ICIA:

Now that you have gathered all the information required while developing your policy, strategy or service through steps one-four, step five is preparing the Island Communities Impact Assessment itself. You should look at the criteria specified in Section 8(3) of the Act.[8] This is mandatory and so it's important to take care when compiling your ICIA. The Act states that you need to:

  • describe the likely significantly different effect of the policy, strategy or service; and
  • assess the extent to which you consider that the policy, strategy or service can be developed or delivered in such a manner as to improve or mitigate, for island communities, the outcomes resulting from it.

Section 13 of the Act relates to the preparation of ICIAs by Scottish Ministers in regard to legislation. This provision does not therefore relate to other Relevant Authorities. By virtue of Section 13, an ICIA must:

  • describe the likely significantly different effect of the legislation,
  • assess the extent to which the Scottish Ministers consider that the legislation can be developed in such a manner as to improve or mitigate, for island communities, the outcomes resulting from the legislation, and
  • set out the financial implications of steps taken to mitigate, for island communities, the outcomes resulting from the legislation.

Once you have described the likely significant different effect of your proposal, you will need to set out ways to deal with this. You should consider whether you can make changes that could improve or mitigate, for island communities, the outcomes resulting from it.

Things to remember in Step Five:

  • Have you set out clearly any impacts or effects of your work?
  • You should begin to consider what changes or mitigations can be made to ensure there is no impact?
  • Have you used plain language?
  • Do you need to make your ICIA available in any other languages?

Step Six – Making adjustments to your work:

By Step Six, you should have a range of information from which to draw some conclusions and make recommendations.

You should decide if you are rejecting the policy, strategy or service, improving or adjusting it or simply adopting it as proposed. If you decide that you need to make some adjustments, you should remember that delivery mechanisms could vary across different island communities – what might work for one island, may not work for another even if that island is in the same local authority area or archipelago.

You might want to pilot the policy, strategy or service or some of the mitigations in order to assess whether you can achieve your objectives without adverse effect. Or, you may consider using island-specific indicators or targets for monitoring purposes.

It's important that you continue to consider the needs of islands as you develop your adjustments. It may also be that you would wish to consider whether to refresh or complete a new ICIA as your policy, strategy or service develops.

Things to remember in Step Six:

  • Make sure you have all the information you need to consider if you need to make any adjustments.
  • If the outcome of the ICIA (that has been properly carried out), is that nothing can be done to mitigate the effect of your policy, strategy or service, is there a need to further justify the adverse impact that the policy may have?
  • If you don't need to make any adjustments, can you clearly set out why?
  • Do you need to adjust the objectives you set out in Step One?
  • Do you need to test your proposals or mitigations?

Step Seven – Publishing your ICIA:

It's important that you keep stakeholders, relevant colleagues and Ministers updated on your progress, and when you're ready to publish your ICIA.

It will be important to publish all ICIA assessments. Previously, in terms of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, a Relevant Authority was only obliged to publish its reasons for not carrying out an island communities impact assessment for a policy, strategy or service which has an effect on an island community. Through new regulations, all island community impact assessments are to be published in the interests of transparency.[9] This provision will allow the public access to decision-making on whether an ICIA has been carried out or not. From an island community perspective transparency will be met if ICIAs can be easily retrieved and consulted.

Your ICIA should be completed by the individuals responsible for the policy, strategy or service within the Relevant Authority and it should be approved and signed off by a senior member of your organisation. In the Scottish Government, this should be at ministerial level.

Section 12[10] of the Act also requires a Relevant Authority to publish information about the steps it has taken to comply with the Section 7[11] duty during a reporting period. A reporting period is any period determined by the Relevant Authority of up to a maximum of one year. A Relevant Authority can publish the information in any way it considers appropriate (for example in an annual or other report). We suggest that Relevant Authorities publish the information on their own websites.

We've provided an Annual Reporting Return Assessment Template for you at Annex C of this guide to help Relevant Authorities (with the exception of the Scottish Ministers) to comply with the reporting requirements under the Section 12 duty.

Things to remember in Step Seven:

  • Have you arranged to have your ICIA signed off by a senior member of your Relevant Authority?
  • Have you decided where you will publish your ICIA?
  • Have you decided how you will comply with the reporting requirement in Section 12 of the Act?



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