National islands plan: annual report - 2020

The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 requires that a report is presented to Parliament each year setting out the progress made towards delivery of the National Islands Plan. The National Islands Plan annual report 2020 is the first of these reports.

Environmental Wellbeing and Biosecurity

Strategic Objective 8 - To improve and promote environmental wellbeing and deal with biosecurity

We committed to protect island biodiversity.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

During the first year of the National Islands Plan, five nature conservation Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been designated, three of which are in proximity to islands; North East Lewis, Shiant East Bank and Sea of the Hebrides. Additionally, twelve new Special Protection Areas have been designated, 7 of which are in proximity to islands; Seas off Foula, Seas off St Kilda, Coll and Tiree, East Mainland Coast Shetland, Sound of Gigha, West Coast of the Outer Hebrides and Rum.

Projects have been undertaken across our island communities to improve and promote environmental wellbeing and deal with biosecurity:

  • The Seas of the Outer Hebrides (SEASOH), a partnership between NatureScot, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Marine Scotland, University of the Highlands and Islands and Creative Carbon Scotland, aims to pilot a co-management approach to MPAs in the Outer Hebrides marine region. We have completed phase one of community engagement, identifying key issues and priorities for MPAs and their management. The project is expected to conclude in March 2022.
  • Species on the Edge is a partnership of NatureScot and 7 nature conservation charities, all dedicated to improving the fortunes of 40 priority species found along Scotland's coast and islands. Funding was secured from National Lottery Heritage Fund to develop a 4 and a half year programme of work to tackle the impacts of environmental change on wildlife to benefit both nature and people.
  • Agreements are in place to manage land in Islay, Uist, Coll, Tiree and South Walls for the benefit of Greenland barnacle geese and Greenland white-fronted geese, whilst supporting farmers whose land and crops are affected by the birds.
  • A key focus of the Landscape Partnership Project is aimed at improving and managing habitats for key native bird species on a number of non-connected Orkney Isles.
  • Support is in place to maintain a viable red-billed chough population on Islay, whilst a long term approach to population management is developed and agreed. The population is at risk of extinction without intervention.
  • NatureScot commissioned 3 reports evaluating the impact and intervention options for mammalian invasive non-native species on island protected areas including Rum, Noss and Hermaness on Unst.
  • The project to remove invasive rhododendron from Kinloch village on Rum is ongoing.

We committed to address biosecurity in a holistic and integrated manner as a means not only to contribute to environmental wellbeing, but also to contribute to sustainable economic development on Scottish islands.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Marine Scotland have undertaken a campaign to raise awareness of invasive non-native species, American lobster (Homarus americanus), targeted at fishermen to encourage reporting for lobsters caught in Scottish waters. American lobsters could have a negative impact on native European lobsters and other species in the marine environment, by acting as a disease vector, competing for food and shelter and interbreeding. By encouraging reporting, Marine Scotland aim to understand more about the threat from the species by obtaining information about where they are, in what quantities and if they are breeding.

We committed to establish an islands forum, through Zero Waste Scotland, as part of the implementation of the Deposit Return Scheme, to ensure that key considerations for islands (and rural communities more generally) are reflected. This Forum will support, not only, input into our legislative plans for the scheme but also ensure that key considerations for islands communities are integrated into the implementation planning process.

This commitment has been fulfilled.

Zero Waste Scotland supported the Scottish Government on the 'island-proofing' of the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), holding a series of engagement events with island communities in October 2019. The feedback from these events fed into an Island Communities Impact Assessment and helped shape changes to the regulations that are designed to make sure the scheme works for all of Scotland's communities.

A DRS Islands Forum has been established to provide an ongoing engagement mechanism for representatives of island communities to support development of this impact assessment and subsequent implementation planning. Those on the Forum can input directly and help to identify or contact other suitable representatives across the islands and within communities.

We committed to work with island communities to explore how they can contribute to the circular economy through small-scale pilots for example supporting local food production.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Through the Islands Green Recovery Programme (IGRP) and collaboration with Zero Waste Scotland, grant funding provided by the Scottish Government and European Regional Development Fund will empower shops, from 12 Scottish islands, to reduce packaging by introducing shoppers to reusable alternatives. In addition to seeing waste frequently washing up on the shores around them, island communities often have to bear the double burden of dealing with imported single-use items being shipped off-island. The £268,388 IGRP Refill Fund investment provides dispensing equipment that enables customers to obtain grocery products in reusable containers brought from home.

Additionally, Zero Waste Scotland has embedded an officer within Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop a strategic approach to driving the circular economy across island communities.

We committed to continue and refresh the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, which has benefited island communities through provision of infrastructure to mitigate the impact of increased tourism benefiting islands' communities and environment.

This commitment has been fulfilled.

The Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund is administered by VisitScotland and is open to local authorities and National Park Authorities to apply for in partnership with their communities. A total of £6 million funding was split between 2018-19 and 2019-20. The announcement of the first round was made on 5 October 2018, with round two on 6 June 2019. The announcement of a further £3 million for the fund was made in the First Minister's Programme for Government on 3 September 2020.

We committed to develop work with the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy's Non-Native Species Action Group to increase public information around minimising particularly high-risk invasive species movements on islands.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Although the SBS action group has not yet met to discuss this action, the ongoing island eradication projects listed below are run by NatureScot or RSPB, who originally proposed this action to the Group. All of these projects engage with island communities to raise awareness of invasive predators and, in particular, to help prevent them from spreading onto adjacent islands.

  • NatureScot continue to work to eradicate American mink from the Outer Hebrides. The population has been reduced to close to the point of eradication, but small numbers of individual animals remain.
  • Work to assess the feasibility of removing hedgehogs from North and South Uist in order
    to protect internationally important bird populations is in progress in partnership with RSPB Scotland. Work was delayed due to COVID-19, however the feasibility study is scheduled
    to conclude in 2021.
  • Work is ongoing on Orkney to non-native stoats. Due to COVID-19, community outreach has been restricted to social media and radio interviews. Community outreach is a strong element within the project, which also has a schools programme. Following an extended period required to gain land access, eradication of non-native stoats on Orkney has now begun.
  • Biosecurity for LIFE are working to raise awareness of the threat of invasive predators and put in place systems to prevent their accidental introduction to islands. The project is primarily a communications project aimed at engaging island communities and visitors to prevent rodents and stoats getting to islands as stowaways in boats and cargo. In particular they focused primarily on 41 island special protection areas (SPAs) in the UK that are designated for breeding seabirds. 28 of these SPAs are in Scotland and 13 are in the rest of the UK. This project includes school programmes, plans for seabird islands and advice for boat users in development, community consultations, training workshops and island checks which are currently delayed due to the pandemic.

We committed to work with island partners to design solutions that address climate change through nature based solutions with multiple benefits including, for example the protection and restoration of peatlands and salt marshes.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Scottish Government supports continued collaboration with island partners to ensure nature based solutions are used to tackle to continued threat of climate change. Several key projects that have been undertaken during the first year of the National Island Plan are noted below:

  • The Adaptation Scotland Programme, delivered on behalf of the Scottish Government by sustainability charity Sniffer, is supporting climate adaptation work on the Scottish islands. Adaptation Scotland is working with the Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership to develop adaptation actions for inclusion in the Local Outcomes Improvement Plan (see update under Strategic Objective 9). This includes developing links with existing and upcoming projects to explore nature based solutions to climate challenges on the islands.
  • In the period 2012/13 to 31 March 2020 Peatland Action has delivered 16 peatland restoration projects across our islands (Arran, Islay, Lewis, Mull, Shetland, Skye), putting 810 hectares on the road to restoration and further work is underway this financial year.
  • On Rum, there has been a reduction in wild herbivores over 10,000 ha to enable ecological restoration, reduce red deer impacts, improve habitat and peatland condition as set out in Rum NNR habitat management plan.



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