Islands Strategic Group minutes: March 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 24 March 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands
  • Cllr Robin Currie, Council Leader, Policy Lead for Economy and Rural Growth, Argyll and Bute Council
  • Pippa Milne, Chief Executive, Argyll & Bute Council
  • Cllr Roddie MacKay, Council Leader, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Cllr Margaret Davidson, Council Leader, Highland Council
  • Cllr Alex Gallagher, Council's cabinet member for Economy/Cabinet member for Post-Covid Renewal, North Ayrshire Council
  • Malcolm Burr, Malcolm Burr, Chief Executive, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Ann MacDonald, Scottish Futures Trust
  • Donna Manson, Chief Executive, Highland Council
  • Emma McMullen (deputising for Craig Hatton), Senior Manager Economic Policy, North Ayrshire Council
  • James Wylie (Deputising for John Mundell, Chief Executive), Orkney Islands Council.
  • Peter Peterson (Deputising for Cllr Steven Coutts), Council Leader, Shetland Islands Council
  • Anna Whelan, Strategy Manager, Orkney Islands Council (National Islands Plan Delivery Group Member)

Scottish Government

  • Mr Kevin Stewart, Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care
  • Philip Raines, Interim Deputy Director, Rural Economy and Communities (REC)
  • Erica Clarkson, Head of Islands Policy and Communities, REC
  • Nicola Crook, National Islands Plan Delivery Lead, REC
  • Cameron Anson, Repopulation and Islands Communities Policy Manager, REC
  • Francesco Sindico, Carbon Neutral Islands Lead, REC
  • Lorraine Lowrie, Senior Island Communities Policy Lead, REC
  • Lewis Macaskill, Senior Island Communities Policy Lead, REC
  • Coinneach Morrison, Islands Recovery and Policy Manager, Islands Team
  • Joanna Bowman, People and Information Manager
  • Rachel Palmer, Deputy Private Secretary
  • Stephen White, Team Leader - Place Based Economic Development Stephanie Igoe, Policy Officer, Islands Team
  • Anna Kynaston, Deputy Director, NCS
  • Colin McKnight, Team Leader National Care Service Consultation Engagement
  • Marie Garvie, Contract Management Ferries Unit
  • Jonathan Ferrier

Items and actions


 The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Ms Gougeon welcomed everyone to the meeting. The Cabinet Secretary was pleased to have Mr Stewart, Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care, here to discuss the National Care Service and the important areas that effect our island communities. 

The minutes from the previous meeting were approved. 

Islands Bond 

A paper detailing the progress of the Islands Bond was circulated prior to the meeting. Cameron Anson and Lorraine Lowrie from the Islands Team were present to answer any questions. 

Carbon neutral islands 

A paper detailing the progress of Carbon Neutral Islands Project was circulated prior to the meeting. Francesco Sindico from the Islands Team attended the meeting to answer any questions. 

Francesco Sindico noted that they were close to sharing the islands identified as part of the project with, details to be sent to Cabinet Secretary in the week following this meeting. Collaboration has been fantastic and look forward to continuing it. 

Islands programme 

A paper detailing the progress of the progress of the Islands Programme was circulated prior to the meeting. Nicola Crook from the Islands Team attended the meeting to answer any questions. 

Pippa Milne disappointed to see the change to bids rather than allocations. 

Phillip Raines shared their observations and suggestions, explaining that it should be shown that practical competitive bidding is not something unusual and can sometimes be helpful. Points about how many there are puts responsibility on us, key thing is to create flexibility. 

Nicola Crook explained that an investment panel is still in development and will provide an update in due course. Investment should be strategic and an idea to work with applicants who may not be accepted this year but may be in the future. 

Islands resilience 

A paper detailing the progress of the progress of island resilience was circulated prior to the meeting. Cameron Anson from the Islands Team attended the meeting to answer any questions 

Cameron Anson explained that the paper builds on the changes to the work of the team during the first lockdown. Its continuing role would involve maintaining contact with communities. 

Pippa Milne, Cameron Anson any contact with the resilience teams, might help with clarity of things being duplicated. 

Community wealth building 

Stephen White was introduced to provide an update on the community wealth building. 

Stephen White explained that it is a relatively new but important unit. The model is practical with 5 pillars on how to run the businesses and is to benefit the community from the land. Expect legislation to be introduced late 2023. Consultation is planned to commence in summer 2022, with a view to cast the net wide. 

National care service 

Mr Stewart and Anna Kynaston were introduced to discuss the national care service. 

Mr Stewart wanted to ensure that there was engagement with the group moving forward as it is vital we work together to get everyone access to high quality care services. 

Delivery will have impacts beyond care, including transport and workforce. Ensure there is appropriate accommodation for those coming to work. 

He was aware there is a concern of loss in local democracy. Local governments will be a key part of this going forward. It was highlighted that this is the start of a long process and creating a national care plan is will include lots of engagement. Specifically, it is vital to talk and communicate how best to serve islands communities 

Malcolm Burr gave thanks for early establishment of the islands engagement group noting that the public sector landscape is different depending on various factors across Scotland. Being a provider of social care services is in the local authority, should be taken into account, also there is a need to think of accommodation. It may be that a different model for islands would be most appropriate. This should remain an agenda point moving forward. 

Margaret Davidson highlighted that underfunding has resulted in slow progress. Although, there was an improvement in funding over the past six months. Asked that authorities have the freedom to get on from the start, and at community level to make changes as they come up. Communities are ahead of the public sector itself. Need to find new models that work within the islands, don’t think we can wait until there is a national care service as there are already changes being made. Want to keep this on the meeting agenda. 

Graham Sinclair discussed Orkney feeling that a third public body would be disproportionate, in small populations public bodies are already working together, there could be potential blockage or conflict and support the points Malcolm put forward. 

Mr Stewart stated that he was aware of the differences in the island communities, key results from the report and consultation showed people want to see real change in service delivery. Social care in Scotland isn’t broken but there is need for improvement. The Scottish Government want to see high quality standards. On governance issues are one reason why the Scottish Government haven’t closed the door in doing something different for the islands. We would be failing our duties if we weren’t to offer the same quality that is provided on the mainland. It is fortunate that the local authority will continue to be an important part of delivery. Not waiting for the care service delivery plan to make changes, work must also take place now to make the changes. 

Alex Gallagher discussed North Ayrshire being both a land and island authority so not just an islands issue for them. 

Mr Stewart pointed out the main difficulty is the way social care is provided creates a lack of accountability. The key element is people and the delivery of services for these people. There should be high quality standards nationally and no post code lotteries. 

Robin Currie stated he was unclear on the benefits for those who cannot provide care within the home. Care staff would need to travel from the mainland and be found accommodation. 

Mr Stewart discussed issues with recruitment and retention. Pay is one problem, it has not been easy getting the money to the carers themselves. Young people often don’t see a career pathway or progression within care. The plan would provide the ability to make changes to pay and help provide a career progression. There are huge opportunities to attract people into this career path and retain talent. 

Margaret Davidson asked if some National Insurance contributions could go directly go into social care not just to the NHS. Some communities are delivering homecare and preventative services and want to roll that out, key to this is direct funding. 

Mr Stewart stated that the Scottish Government will increase the social care budget by £840 million, but were yet to see what decisions are to be made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. 
Ms Gougeon thanked Mr Stewart for attending the meeting and discussing the important issue of the national care service directly with local authority leaders. 

National Islands Plan Delivery Group 

Anna Whelan from Orkney Islands Council was then introduced to provide an update on behalf of the National Islands Plan Delivery Group. 

Key items from the previous meeting were: consulting for prospective bill on social care, ferry services affecting tourists and the local economy as a result, key islands project. 

Any other business

No other business was raised. 

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