National Islands Plan Annual Report 2022

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. This report sets out progress made during the 2022 reporting year.

Environment and Biosecurity

Strategic Objective 8 – To improve and promote environmental health and deal with biosecurity

We committed to protect island biodiversity.

Implementation Route Map action

The National Islands Plan Annual Report 2021 sets out a series of projects that are currently supporting this commitment and will continue to support island biodiversity going forward.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

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

Species on the Edge

In June 2022, National Lottery Heritage Fund approved the Species on the Edge project. Species on the Edge is a partnership of NatureScot and seven nature conservation charities, all dedicated to improving the fortunes of thirty-seven priority species found along Scotland's coast and islands. Delivery of the £6.7 million project will start on the ground in 2023 and take place over 5 years, tackling the impacts of environmental change on wildlife to benefit both nature and people.

Goose schemes

There is a national policy for goose management, but islands support concentrations of wintering migratory geese because of their location on the international flyway. In locations where migratory geese cause significant agricultural damage, there are management schemes in place. Currently, these are Islay, Coll, Tiree, Uist and South Walls. Resident greylag geese also cause agricultural damage, particularly in crofting areas, and management has been supported by NatureScot and the Scottish Government to try to reduce populations of resident greylag on Tiree, Coll, Uist, Lewis, Harris and Orkney. The current budget for goose management focused mainly on islands is around £1.3 million.

Sea Eagle Scheme

Agreements are in place through the Sea Eagle Management Scheme (SEMS) to support land managers who are experiencing difficulties with white-tailed eagles predating livestock. Whilst there is a national policy for white-tailed eagles, there are concentrations on islands – particularly Mull, Skye and the Outer Hebrides. In 2022, there were ninety-nine Farms, Crofts or Sheep Stock Clubs in island locations receiving support from the SEMS (sixty-one holdings in Skye & Raasay, sixteen in Mull, ten in Lewis & Harris, six in the Uists and Benbecula, two in Eigg and Islay and one in Barra and Lismore).

Orkney Native Wildlife Project

The Orkney Native Wildlife Project is making substantial progress towards removing the non-native stoat from Orkney to prevent a catastrophic decline in native wildlife (Orkney vole, short-eared owl, hen harrier and various waders and sea birds species). Considerable work is also being done to implement an Island biosecurity plan.

Northern Isles Landscape Partnership

The work to improve and manage habitats for key native bird species on a number of non-connected Orkney Isles has progressed significantly with additional opportunities and demand from Island land managers being realised.


NatureScot, in consultation with the Scottish Chough Study Group, are developing a 'population recovery' programme that seeks to deliver extensive habitat management across Islay and Colonsay, a programme of monitoring and if required, population reinforcement. Resourcing for this recovery programme will be sought over the coming years, with opportunities for private and public investment explored with partners. NatureScot continue to fund supplementary feeding of chough at key roost sites, in addition to population demographic monitoring. The Nature Restoration Fund paid for the replacement of the populations main roost site at Ardnave, which has been successfully restored and is once again being used by roosting chough. NatureScot and partners were successful in receiving funding from HLF for the Species on the Edge Project, which is dedicated to improving the fortunes of thirty-seven priority species, including chough, in the Scottish coast and Islands.


The Rum National Nature Reserve Non-native intervention plan is in place covering brown rats, Rhododendron ponticum and Cotoneaster and feral goats. Surveillance of impacts of presence of avian influenza in the Manx shearwater colony took place.

Avian flu

NatureScot is coordinating the response to the unprecedented deaths of seabirds and wildfowl due to the outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPIA). This included monitoring of mortalities in the islands' internationally important breeding colonies and using this intelligence to advice land managers and tourist operators. The outbreak required the development of new surveillance and monitoring protocols. Through the Scottish HPAI Task Force, chaired by NatureScot, these protocols, in tandem with advice and knowledge from the scientific and local communities, will allow a more flexible and targeted approach to managing activities that may have an impact on birds if a further outbreak returns in the 2023 breeding season.

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.

Implementation Route Map action

We will continue to undertake island specific projects where required to address biosecurity in an integrated manner.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

The Orkney Native Wildlife Project has developed a biosecurity plan to prevent the spread of stoats to the non-linked Orkney Islands. Good progress is being made in forming individual Island community led stoat incursion response hubs. A newly created Orkney Island stoat biosecurity group has also been formed to engage with stakeholders and deliver the biosecurity plan. Training is being given to parts of the Orkney tourism sector to raise awareness of non-native stoats to both tourism guides and tourists. Engagement is ongoing with tourism transport operators such as the cruise liner industry and supporting infrastructure to ensure biosecurity forms part of the discussion around sustainable economic tourism development in Orkney.

The Seabird Island Biosecurity Project is helping to protect more than thirty offshore seabird islands from invasion by mammalian invasive non-native species has been extended for a further three years, with support the Nature Restoration Fund.

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.

Commitment Fulfilled

This commitment was fulfilled in 2020. Please see the National Islands Plan Annual Report 2020 for further details.

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.

Implementation Route Map action

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.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Zero Waste Scotland

Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) have worked with work with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) on the development of the Highland Community Composting Decision Toolkit: a one stop shop for resources related to setting up a community composting initiative in Highland. Developed in collaboration with the Highland Council and Highland Good Food Partnership. ZWS are formal partners in a collaborative Keep Scotland Beautiful initiative to create The Highland Cup Movement, a trial focused on supporting consumers and businesses to choose reusable cups as opposed to defaulting to single use products. They are also founding members of Highland Adapts, focused on building Circular Economy into regional adaptation research and plans. This year they have been working on a climate risk assessment for Highland and a climate economic impact assessment with a Circular Economy focus.

In addition to work with HIE, the Recycling Improvement Fund (RIF) awarded funding to Western Isles Council which will provide additional refuse and recycling capacity through more bins and glass banks being made available to the public, as well as an electric vehicle to allow expansion of recycling to rural areas. The Return and Recycle Orkney Initiative was also launched in November 22. The initiative provides a charity donation for every container deposited (within the two Reverse Vending Machines installed) and through Employability Orkney, a number of local charities will benefit until the initiative is completed prior to the launch of the Deposit Return Scheme in August 2023. To date over 7,000 beverage containers have been recycled through the initiative.

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

Commitment Fulfilled

This commitment was fulfilled in 2020. Please see the National Islands Plan Annual Report 2020 for further details.

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

Implementation Route Map action

We will consult with the Non-Native Species Action Group and NatureScot on: which species should be included; and how raising public awareness may be best achieved.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Hebridean Mink Project (HMP)

HMP has been struggling with staff resources during and after COVID-19 and it has been recognised that the project is unlikely to achieve eradication without additional resources. That said, the mink population is being restricted to extremely low levels with the continuing benefit to a range of ground nesting bird species throughout the Outer Hebrides. Maintaining this low-level mink population is vital to protect these species from predation and mitigate a range of other pressures including those linked to climate change.

Uist Wader Project (UWP)

UWP is continuing to maintain North Uist as hedgehog free and monitors this area to ensure that the ground nesting birds, particularly waders, continue to be protected. In the rest of the Uists the project partnership, which includes the RSPB, continue the process of identifying funding and the development of a project to firstly remove hedgehogs from Benbecula, translocating them to the mainland of Scotland, and utilise the lessons learned from this stage to continue an expanded project down to a larger geographical scale project on South Uist.

Orkney Native Wildlife Project

The Orkney Native Wildlife Project has developed a communications plan with its partner NatureScot, RSPB and the Orkney Islands Council to maximise its potential for increasing public awareness around the projects aims and the risk of further spread of the non-native stoats. The project has agreed on an integrated learning programme with Orkney Islands Council for the Orkney Schools. A shift to more 1:1 volunteering opportunities via a resident volunteer programme has proved a success in 2022 and is being continued again for 2023. The project currently has ninety-five active volunteers with over nine thousand hours logged so far. Following delays due to the covid pandemic, the project has now also managed to set up a Youth Forum with nineteen active members to date.

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.

Implementation Route Map action

We will continue to support collaboration with island partners to ensure nature-based solutions are used to tackle to continued threat of climate change.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

Outer Hebrides

In November 2022, the Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership published its Climate Rationale and Case for Action. These documents provide a shared foundation for taking forward climate change adaptation planning in the Outer Hebrides, with the importance of the natural environment underpinning everything.

Highland Adapts

The Highland Adapts initiative brings our communities, businesses, land managers and public sector together to facilitate transformational action towards a prosperous, climate ready Highland Council area – including our island communities. Its objectives are to:

  • Develop a strong knowledge and evidence base, setting out the climate risks and opportunities that will affect the region
  • Facilitate information sharing through a range of resources
  • Identify opportunities to reduce and overcome these climate risks
  • Develop a shared adaptation strategy and suite of action plans
  • Support others to use plans to form the basis of projects and activities across the public sector, community, land management and business sector plans, strategies and investments
  • Support the public sector to embed climate change adaptation throughout their business
  • Support community climate change action.

The focus for the coming year will be phase 1 of the Highland Climate Risk and Opportunity Assessment. The aims of this piece of work are to:

  • Identify and prioritise the risks and opportunities from climate change to Highland's society, economy, and environment between now and 2080
  • Lay the foundation for a transformational approach to climate adaptation and resilience for the region
  • Support a just transition to a net zero and climate resilient economy, in a way that delivers fairness and tackles inequality and injustice.


The Orkney Partnership launched a public consultation in December 2022 of a strategic plan (2023-30) which has sustainable development as one of three key priorities. This seeks to balance the needs of people against those of the environment, using the concept behind the Doughnut Economics model, which the group is adapting for Orkney. Adaptation and mitigation are integrated within this to ensure communities, habitats and wildlife are protected from the effects of climate change. In addition, the island of Hoy has been selected by Scottish Government for its Carbon Neutral Islands project, which will enable the group to pilot innovative low carbon techniques in sectors of particular importance to islands, such as agriculture and marine transport.

Argyll and Bute (Islands)

The Argyll and Bute Community Planning Partnership has identified a clear need for Argyll and Bute to take a thorough and strategic approach to combat Climate Change. This initiative will begin in January 2023 and bring everyone from across the region together to develop a strategic approach to mitigating, adapting and engaging on climate change. The initiative will set out the climate risks and opportunities that are affecting Argyll and Bute. This will be used to develop a shared strategy and a suite of action plans which will embed action to mitigate, adapt and engage across organisational, community and sector plans, strategies and investments.

In addition, the island of Islay has been selected by Scottish Government for its Carbon Neutral Islands project, which will enable the group to explore low carbon techniques in sectors of particular importance to islands, such as agriculture and whisky.

Peatland restoration projects have been initiated on the Isle of Rum to address natural erosion. Additionally, partnership work with Scottish Government to find investment into a hydropower scheme upgrade continues.

Peatland Action

During 2022, Peatland ACTION offered funding to deliver three peatland restoration projects in Shetland totalling just over 120 hectares and 385 hectares on Islay, twenty-nine hectares on Mull, and 55 ha on Arran.

There are currently 1.6 FTE Project Officers on Shetland, and a 1 FTE Project Officer in Lewis to deliver peatland restoration projects. These posts are employed by local Development Trusts and funded by Peatland ACTION who are actively seeking opportunities to locate a further 2 FTE posts within the islands in the coming year – details as yet to be confirmed.

In October 2022, four days of training were delivered on Islay with thirty-nine attendees, to provide local contractors with skills to carry out on-the-ground peatland restoration work.



Back to top