Foreword from Scotland's Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands
As Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, I am proud to introduce the Scottish Government's first Annual Report of the National Islands Plan. This has been a challenging year for us all, and none more so than our island communities for whom COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, a profound impact. The pandemic has exposed new vulnerabilities, but has also revealed some new found strengths. I would especially like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank our island communities for their resilience and their response to the pandemic and for everything they are doing in our collective fight against COVID-19.
Despite the challenges of 2020, we have nevertheless continued to work collaboratively towards the implementation of the National Islands Plan and its ambitious Strategic Objectives, whilst remaining flexible in order to best support our island communities as we move towards a post-pandemic recovery.
The production of this Annual Report marks a key milestone in the implementation of Scotland's first National Islands Plan. To ensure that the Plan is inclusive, it is essential that island communities are kept informed of progress towards its delivery. I am heartened to see good progress is being made across a number of issues, despite the difficulties posed by the unprecedented events of 2020.
The National Islands Plan is already working, but we know that in light of the pandemic and its after effects, the next few years may not be easy. The Scottish Government, alone, cannot deliver all of the commitments that will continue to improve outcomes for our island communities. However, now, more than ever, is the time for us to redouble our efforts to work closely with island communities and island leaders to ensure that the voices of Scotland's islanders are fully heard and that any opportunities for positive change that arise from behavioural or other changes during the pandemic response are fully embraced.
The importance of our island communities to Scotland's identity, cultural heritage, economy and civic life cannot be overstated – ensuring that islands communities continue to thrive in the current environment, and in future, is crucial. The ongoing implementation of the National Islands Plan provides the basis for addressing issues today and for preparing for the future and I and my ministerial colleagues and officials look forward to working together with islands stakeholders as we take the next steps in supporting our islands to truly flourish.
Paul Wheelhouse MSP
Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands