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.


Strategic Objective 3 - To improve transport services

We committed to ensure that existing and future transport-related policies, strategies and services are fully island proofed so that they truly meet the needs of island communities.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

We have made commitments that ICIAs will be undertaken for the NTS2 Delivery Plan (in addition to the ICIA carried out for the National Transport Strategy 2 (NTS2) document in February 2020), the Strategic Transport Planning Review (STPR2) and the free bus travel for under-19s workstreams in 2021. Working in collaboration, the Scottish Government Islands Team, and Transport Scotland will ensure that regard is given to Island Communities when developing transport-related policies, strategies and services.

We committed to engage with local authorities, island communities and transport operators in developing regulations and guidance for the bus services provisions of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019, which aim to enable local authorities to better respond to local needs.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

The implementation of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2018 has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the UK's exit from the European Union. Combined with associated resource constraints for local authorities, this has impacted on the development of guidance and regulations and the related consultation processes.

However, Transport Scotland are currently organising a virtual workshop in spring 2021 to involve stakeholders in developing materials for a forthcoming consultation on implementing the Bus provisions of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2018. The consultation paper is expected to launch later this year.

We committed to produce a long-term plan and investment programme for new ferries and development at ports to improve resilience, reliability, capacity and reduce emissions to give confidence to island communities on our ongoing commitment.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Work on this was not envisaged to start in 2020. However, a further Vessel Replacement and Deployment Plan report for the Clyde and Hebrides network has been drafted and discussed with key stakeholders with a view to issuing for consultation.

We committed to develop a new Ferries Plan that will meaningfully contribute to delivering the outcomes of wider Scottish Government strategies as set out in the National Transport Strategy and the National Islands Plan.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

The Ferries Plan will be replaced by an Islands Connectivity Plan. Work on this has been delayed by the need to prioritise our operational response to COVID-19 and the majority of the work will now be undertaken in 2021 and 2022. However, we have been able to undertake some initial work on topics including fares, emissions and investment planning during 2020.

The NTS2 Delivery Plan of December 2020 states that:

We will also prepare the Islands Connectivity Plan (ICP) as the successor to the Ferries Plan 2013-22. We will develop objectives based on supporting delivery of NTS2 and the National Islands Plan, and develop proposals to meet those objectives which represent value for money. The ICP will be closely linked to the outcomes of the STPR2, in order to consider island connectivity more broadly having regard to aviation, ferries and fixed links, and to connecting and onward travel.

We committed to review the impacts of Road Equivalent Tariff and to consider future ferry fares policy options that will meet the needs of islanders and support island economies.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

We are still committed to reducing fares on northern routes and have introduced a three year islander fares freeze for passengers, non-commercial vehicles and cabins on Aberdeen-Kirkwall-Lerwick routes from January 2020.

An evaluation of RET has been undertaken and the report has been published on March 15th 2021. This report will be used to inform the upcoming fares review being conducted as part of the Islands Connectivity Plan. This brings the totoal additional funding provided, over and above the annual government settlement, to £19.2 million for finanical year 2021/22.

A further £7.7 million has been allocated in the draft budget 2021-22 to support inter-island ferry services in Shetland, Orkney, Argyll and Bute for which those local authorities are responsible, meeting their revenue asks in full as well as extending the timetable and enabling the introduction of RET fares by Orkney Islands Council to its inter-island ferries.

Also as part of the Ferries Plan, we committed to review and promote integration between ferries and other modes of transport on the mainland and islands, with a view to better facilitating the use of active, public or shared transport for all or part of journeys to and from islands in an affordable and accessible manner.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

This commitment will be a strand of work undertaken as part of the Islands Connectivity Plan and the Strategic Transport Projects Review and this will take account of the particular needs of those with mobility issues.

For the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services, we committed to develop and introduce a new booking, reservation and ticketing system, with Smart Ticketing capability, to replace the existing system.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

A project has been initiated to procure and implement a new booking and ticketing system for the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services. The procurement phase has recently been completed and a contract awarded. CalMac Ferries Ltd are now working with the supplier on implementation.

We committed to use the feedback from the NTS consultation to inform the NTS Delivery Plan which will seek to address the different transport challenges faced across Scotland's different areas and regions including islands.

This commitment has been fulfilled.

The NTS2 Delivery Plan was published on 17 December 2020 and sets out Scottish Government actions for achieving the NTS2 priorities. In 2021, Transport Scotland will work with our partners to develop a Working with Partners document, setting out the wider-than-Scottish Government actions for delivering our shared Strategy.

We committed to determine strategic transport investments from our island communities through STPR2 – which will also inform Transport Scotland's Ferries Plan 2.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

The second STPR2 will inform transport investment in Scotland for the next 20 years.

Due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we revised the STPR2 programme and are now taking forward a two-phase approach to the reporting of recommendations for future transport investment opportunities.

On 3 February 2021 the Phase 1 recommendations and associated impact assessment progress reports were published. These are the first STPR2 recommendations for transport investment, focusing on recommendations for transport projects or interventions that significantly contribute to STPR2 objectives, align well with NTS2 priorities, and can be progressed or delivered within the current spending period and will help support a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Phase 2 will contain further recommendations and will complete STPR2. These will be reported in Autumn 2021.

An updated national Case for Change contained within the STPR2: Update and Phase 1 Recommendations Report was also published. This includes the options groupings that will be taken forward for further appraisal in Phase 2 of STPR2. Updated Case for Change reports have also been published for STPR2 regions, including four of which cover Scotland's island communities.

We committed to work in partnership with local authorities and communities to improve walking and cycling infrastructure, the design of place and access to bikes, facilities, promotion and education to make walking and cycling the most popular choice for shorter everyday journeys including as part of multi-modal journeys.

There is a five year commitment of over £500 million that enables our partners to have confidence to invest in large scale programmes including ambitious active travel infrastructure projects, many of which span several years and which will support more people to walk, wheel and cycle more often.

Over £50 million of the active travel budget goes into the Places for Everyone active travel infrastructure programme every year.

Infrastructure investment will be supported by continued investment in behaviour change programmes, as evidence suggests encouragement, training and advocacy need to be combined with access to bikes and safe, high-quality infrastructure to encourage more people to walk, wheel and cycle.

Future transport investment decisions will be made in line with both the Sustainable Travel and Sustainable Investment hierarchies, prioritising walking, wheeling, cycling and public and shared transport options in preference to single occupancy private car use and supporting reduction in unsustainable travel. Walking and cycling is key to supporting a just transition to net zero and reducing health inequalities given their importance for people and families on low incomes.

Through the Islands Green Recovery Programme, we have provided £75,000 to support the Isle of Kerrera to develop a pilot Island Bike Hire scheme to encourage greater use of active travel for visitors and island residents. This includes the use of eCargo bikes to support active travel options for island residents when travelling to Oban for shopping and other supplies.

We continued to explore the potential to reduce the need to travel by using the planning system to promote places which bring people and services together.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Work is underway to review NPF4, which has been delayed due to the reduced capacity of stakeholders and Government to support the emergency response to COVID-19. We will now lay a draft in Parliament in autumn 2021, rather than September 2020, which highlights the building of 20 minute neighbourhoods as a key opportunity. An Island Communities Impact Assessment will also be prepared.

It is recognised that in rural areas including islands, there is heavier reliance on the private car, but by taking a place-based approach informed by the 20 minute neighbourhood concept we aim to develop strategies to improve connectivity. Through remote working, community hubs, innovation and electric vehicle charging infrastructure we will support a long term low carbon and sustainable approach to rural repopulation.

Subject to requirements as set out in the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service and the Northern Isles Ferry Service contracts, we will always strive to improve, where necessary and possible, issues relating to freight and will engage proactively with operators, communities and stakeholders as appropriate.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Scottish Government intend to undertake a full review of general fares policy, including freight fares, as part of the Islands Connectivity Plan, which will set out the long term ferries strategy from 2023. This will allow for a holistic view of fares across all services and networks.



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