Islands Strategic Group minutes: August 2019

Minutes from the sixth meeting of the Islands Strategic Group, held on 21 August 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • Pippa Milne, Argyll & Bute Council
  • Cllr Aileen Morton, Argyll & Bute Council
  • Malcolm Burr, Chief Executive, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Cllr Roddy MacKay, Leader, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Cllr Allan Henderson, Vice-Convenor, The Highland Council (VC)
  • Kate Lackie, Highland Council (VC)
  • Paul Maxton, Orkney Islands Council
  • John Mundell, Acting Chief Executive, Orkney Islands Council
  • Cllr James Stockan, Orkney Islands Council
  • Peter Peterson, Executive Manager, Shetland Islands, Council
  • Cllr Steven Coutts, Leader, Shetland Islands Council
  • NJR Grant, Director, Development Services, Shetland
  • Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands
  • Catriona MacLean, Head of Rural Economy and Communities
  • Karen MacNee, Head of Rural Communities
  • Kate Higgins, Special Advisor to the First Minister
  • David Clarke, Private Secretary
  • Alan Johnston, Deputy Director, EU Exit Readiness
  • Ralph Throp, Head of Community Resilience Policy
  • Stuart Johnston, Local Government and Analytical Services Division
  • Don Morrison, Islands Policy Officer
  • Lynn Haughton, Islands Policy Officer
  • Islay McLauchlan, Islands Policy Officer


  • Dr Francesco Sindico, Co-Director, Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance 
  • Nicola Crook, Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance
  • Michelle Murdoch, Policy Officer, Tackling Fuel Poverty 


  • Erica Clarkson, Islands Team, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Mr Wheelhouse, the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands welcomed everyone to the sixth meeting of the Islands Strategic Group. A quick introduction by all followed. 

Minutes of the ISG meeting of 4 October 2018

The minutes of the last meeting were approved.

It was recognised that there was still a need to identify an effective way of discussing island issues directly with SG colleagues (noted in para 19), for example waste, self-directed support, and SVQ level 2. An officials ‘working group’ between meetings of the ISG was suggested and it was agreed that the Islands Team would circulate a proposal to members.

The National Islands Plan

Mr Wheelhouse thanked the Islands Team and the contractors (Scottish Islands Federation and the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance) for their work on the consultation and ongoing development of the Plan.

Don Morrison, (Policy Officer, Scottish Government Islands Team) and Dr Francesco Sindico, (Co-Director, Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance) gave a presentation on the development of the National Islands Plan.

Following the presentation, the Minister noted that members would receive a copy of the draft proposed Plan by the end of the week. In order to meet the challenging timescales set by the legislation, there would be a 7 day deadline for comments. Members expressed concern about this timescales.  However, it was noted that there would be a further opportunity for local authorities and other public sector partners to be engaged in the development of an Implementation Strategy which would support delivery of the strategic objectives set out in the Plan. Members welcomed the emphasis on this being a collaborative effort, but expressed some caution about the burden this might place on local authorities at a time of resource pressure. 

The level of engagement with island communities through the consultation process was praised and members requested that this momentum be continued through  to the implementation phase. The importance of island communities being able to see their voices reflected in the Plan was noted.

The Minister emphasised the importance of knowing that the Plan has made a difference to communities. It was agreed that in the development of detailed actions, targets and measurables would be identified. This will include short, medium and long targets. There was agreement that outcomes should be linked to the National Performance Indicators and Sustainable Development Goals.     

It was noted that the Plan may identify actions which could be piloted in some areas.  Whilst there was general agreement on this approach, it was noted that there would need to be close attention paid to ensure that this did not increase inequality if there was subsequently a long delay in rolling out interventions across other islands.  

Members suggested that the Plan should also include sections on education and tourism as distinct areas, as these are crucial to islands.  There was broad support for the emphasis in the plan on human rights and on inclusiveness and fairness.  It was recognised that this would come at a cost, but members suggested that the Plan could help provide a lever for accessing funding.

Island Communities Impact Assessments (ICIAs)

A presentation was given by Michelle Murdoch (Scottish Government, Fuel Poverty Team) about the ICIA that was undertaken in respect of the Fuel Poverty Bill. 
Members were impressed with the level of engagement carried out by the Fuel Poverty Team.

Karen MacNee provided an update on timescales for the development of guidance on ICIA’s and stated that this is currently being developed with the intention that it will be completed by the end of the year. Members noted that here would have to be some flexibility in the guidance to manage the process as one local authority is responsible for 23 Islands.  

Additional powers update

An update was given by Stuart Johnson on The Additional Powers Request (Scotland) Regulations 2019. A paper was circulated regarding this.  

Members requested that further consideration be given to the composition of the Review Panel and whether their decision should be binding. In particular, it was suggested that the Panel must be fair and balanced, and someone should be on the Panel who has an understanding of islands if there was to be a Scottish Government official on it. Paul Maxton noted that he would follow up in writing to the Minister in relation to the non-binding nature of the Review Panel. The Minister agreed to consider the issues raised.. Stuart noted that his team would engage further with the local authorities on these issues and, where possible, address them and provide clarity in the non-statutory guidance being prepared

It was also queried whether resources would follow any transfer of power.  It was advised that the non-statutory guidance emphasised the importance of the pre-application stage discussing issues such as funding, but Stuart agreed to follow this up to ensure that it was adequately covered.     

Any other business 

There was no other business.

Date of the next meeting

It was agreed that the next meeting would take place after the guidance on ICIA was issued and to coincide with the next Transport Forum meeting. The date is yet to be agreed but will probably be December 2019 or January 2020.

Islands Strategic Group
August 2019


Secretariat: Erica Clarkson

Phone: 07585 404264


Islands Strategic Group


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