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.


Strategic Objective 13 – To support effective implementation of the National Islands Plan

We committed to establish a robust process to ensure the timely publication of a detailed Implementation Route Map setting out clear actions with defined responsibilities for action and timescales to support the delivery of the National Islands Plan.

Commitment Fulfilled

This commitment was fulfilled in 2021. Please see the National Islands Plan Annual Report 2021 for further details.

We committed to develop indicators applicable to each Strategic Objective in collaboration with Scottish Government agencies, local authorities, island communities and relevant island socio-economic actors based on the SMART criteria and building on the National Performance Framework and Sustainable Development Goals.

Implementation Route Map action

Further research is being undertaken to gather the necessary data in order to set the baselines for our measurable outcomes. Scottish Government Islands team are currently developing a research index and research working group to ensure that relevant data from our systems of measurement is captured and informs the monitoring of the National Islands Plan. This will include working in collaboration with policy colleagues across Scottish Government, our local authority partners and island community stakeholders to identify pre-existing island statistics to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort.

We will work with island communities, local authorities and stakeholders to develop Island Profiles. This work will seek to develop easily accessible profiles providing demographic, economic, and locally identified and developed data for each island. A small number of test profiles will be developed and delivered in 2022. The learning from this work will help shape how the Island Profile concept may be scaled up and delivered across islands.

We will undertake a further iteration of the National Islands Plan Survey.

To achieve the objectives set out in the National Islands Plan, we needed to improve the availability of data held about Scotland's islands. Over the last 3 years, work has been undertaken to progress this including five key projects to provide islands-level data in order to measure the progress against each Strategic Objective in the Plan.

1. Islands Data Dashboard (RESAS)

2. The National Islands Plan Survey (James Hutton Institute)

3. Islands geography data zones (RESAS)

4. Island region population dashboard (National Records of Scotland)

5. Existing data indicators framework (EKOS)

Islands Data Dashboard

In 2020 an interactive dashboard – Islands Data Dashboard – Infogram – was created using existing data. The dashboard presents the data categorised by the 12 strategic objectives. This workbook which collated all data available at a data zone level. Data zones (see online) were mapped against islands using a lookup. Some data is not available at a datazone level, so has been inputted at a local authority level instead. Where data was available, this has allowed to understand the demographics, geography etc. of individual islands at an island level.

The National Islands Plan Survey

Development of this dashboard highlighted that not all data required for monitoring purposes was available at island level, and so a large-scale primary data collection took place. The National Islands Plan Survey gathered data with a view to collecting information about people's lives against which was used to measure the effectiveness of the Plan.

In October 2020, 20,000 surveys were posted to adult residents of 76 permanently inhabited islands, with options to complete it on paper, online or by phone, and in English or Gaelic. A total of 4,347 people responded to the survey from 59 islands, giving a response rate of 22%.

Survey findings highlight that experiences of island life vary considerably by island group and by age groups. Respondents feel there is a lack of support for young people to remain, move or return to the islands. The data reveals that respondents feel there are a lack of employment, training and higher education opportunities and a lack of childcare options to fit with residents' working patterns. Respondents also feel there is a poor variety of housing types, sizes and tenures to meet people's needs and a lack of affordable housing. Respondents also have mixed experiences of accessing healthcare services and of speed and reliability of internet connections. Some feel there is inadequate infrastructure for the number of tourists their islands attract. The National Islands Plan Survey has significantly improved the availability of data held about Scotland's islands. It has provided baseline data against which to measure the effectiveness of the Plan.

In addition to the survey report, an interactive data explorer (Scottish National Islands Plan Survey (2020): results explorer ( ) was developed which allows exploration of the the data by island region, age group, gender, household income, long term health condition/disability, and household type.

Islands geography data zones

In 2021/22, further work was conducted on the islands geography to allow existing data to be used to as indicators to monitor each Strategic Objective. The key issue was that previously islands geography contained split data zones (those that contain postcodes in different Island regions and both an Island region and part of the Mainland). The challenge was to ensure that data zones uniquely mapped onto the islands regions geography developed by the James Hutton Institute which was used as a basis for the islands survey (National Islands Plan Survey: final report – ( In 2022, a reproducible framework was produced that links the Island Subregion Framework to data zones. The new geography allows islands and mainland to be identified separately. This now allows island and mainland Scotland comparisons to be used. Most importantly, it allows available data sources to be available at the island level and so existing data can now be used more easily to monitor the each Strategic Objective.

Island region population dashboard

In 2022/23 National Records for Scotland used the new islands geography to publish annual population data for Scottish Islands. The first Island Region Populations dashboard which be made public shortly.

Existing data indicators framework

Concurrently in 2022/23, EKOS have been commissioned to deliver a list of existing data indicators which can be used to monitor each of the Strategic objectives. Using the existing data sources identified in this framework, in conjunction with the new islands geography look-up, will provide a further mechanism to monitor the National Islands Plan.

We committed to host a series of island-based focus groups workshops, to discuss and agree the specific actions linked to each of the 13 Strategic Objectives in the Plan.

Commitment Fulfilled

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

We committed to review the availability, usefulness of, and the wider barriers to, island level data both at an individual island level, groups of islands and consider the creation of a "Scottish Islands" data level in order to better understand the challenges faced by island communities.

Commitment Fulfilled

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

We committed to create a Young Islanders Network constituted by young people from all Scottish islands that will have a consultative role in the implementation of the National Islands Plan to ensure that the delivery of the Plan fully considers the interests and priorities of young people.

Commitment Fulfilled

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

We committed to establish a National Islands Plan Governance Group to ensure close monitoring of the Implementation Route Map. This group will oversee the delivery of the National Islands Plan and feedback on progress to the Islands Strategic Group and other interested parties.

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 ensure that the Plan is widely promoted and understood by all sectors of society.

Implementation Route Map action

We will continue to consult and collaborate with our island communities on a regular basis.

We will continue to support the Islands Strategic Group to allow us to work closely with our local authority partners on delivery.

We will continue to support the National Islands Plan Delivery Group to ensure that work is driven forward in a collaborative way that truly involves island communities.

Work is ongoing in relation to this commitment.

The implementation of the National Islands Plan continues to be supported by both the Islands Strategic Group and the National Islands Plan Delivery Group.

The Islands Strategic Group (ISG)

The ISG was established in 2016 to consider issues affecting the inhabited island communities of Scotland, and to ensure greater involvement of the relevant councils in helping identify and design solutions to the unique needs and challenges these communities face. Membership of this group comprises the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Council Leaders and Chief Executives across all Local Authorities with islands. The group met four times during 2022 and covered a wide range of issues including housing, transport and health care services.

The National Islands Plan Delivery Group

To ensure that the National Islands Plan leads to meaningful, positive and sustainable change, there needs to be accountability and ongoing collaboration with local authority partners, stakeholders and island communities for the duration of the Plan. The National Islands Plan Delivery Group (NIPDG) was established in June 2021. It supports implementation of the Plan, ensures close monitoring of the delivery of the Plan and its accompanying Implementation Route Map. Delivering a fair, integrated, green and inclusive plan requires strong collaboration and partnership, and the Delivery Group provides this collaborative working space. During 2022, the NIPDG was convened a number of times to give their input to several key issues. This included, but was not limited to, development of the Islands Programme funding stream, Cost Crisis funding, Young Islanders Network, islands data and research, governance of the National Islands Plan and accompanying Implementation Route Map and Carbon Neutral Islands.

Islands Bond consultation

As previously highlighted, extensive consultation took place with island communities in respect of the proposed Islands Bond policy throughout late 2021 and early 2022. Between 14 March and 26 April 2022, in-person engagement events were held, meeting with over one hundred island residents across twelve island communities on the development of the Islands Bond criteria and eligibility. These events allowed island residents from across all six relevant authority areas to discuss the bond, and how it could address the specific needs of their communities.

Island Workshops

Rum, 14 March 2022

Yell, 22 March 2022

Northmavine (Shetland Mainland), 23 March 2022

Arran, 4 April 2022

Cumbrae, 5 April 2022

Bute, 5 April 2022

Islay, 7 April 2022

Raasay, 11 April 2022

Eriskay, 12 April 2022

Lewis, 13 April 2022

Shapinsay, 25 April 2022

Eday, 26 April 2022

Consultation with communities who are directly impacted by the introduction of new policies or strategies is a crucial part of policy development. Ultimately, based on the feedback received from island communities and stakeholders, the decision was taken to withdraw the Islands Bond and focus on the delivery of more localised solutions. The very approach suggested by communities, stakeholders and Island MSPs. This decision demonstrates our continued commitment to listen to island communities, so we can ensure that policy is delivered in collaboration with them and shows how island communities can influence the direction of policy making in Scotland.

The Carbon Neutral Islands Project

The Carbon Neutral Islands project has engaged with communities to ensure their views are actively featured during development. Our delivery partner Community Energy Scotland have developed local steering groups on each of the six islands. These steering groups have identified local anchor organisations that employ community development officers who will co-ordinate input from the community into the project. This work will lead to Community Climate Change Action Plans which provide communities the chance to prioritise how they want to decarbonise. Work in the next financial year will focus on supporting them achieve the aims of these plans.

The Scottish Islands Federation

We continue to fund the Scottish Islands Federation (SIF) to build on its work of bringing together people living on Scottish Islands, sharing and disseminating information and good practice and promoting the interests of Islanders and to work with island communities, Scottish Government and Local Authorities to ensure island views and needs are heard in order to help deliver the Plan and improve economic and cultural outcomes for all islands as part of the delivery of the objectives of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018.

SIF is a membership organisation representing over sixty members and is overseen by a board of twelve volunteer directors from across all six island local authority areas. SIF's work creates and develops links to island communities which support delivery of the Plan. Its online events, including an annual members' evening, facilitates discussion across focused areas of the Plan including Carbon Neutral Islands. These events offer a combination of updates, direct input from the Islands Team, and shared learning. Officials meet regularly with the SIF project officers to discuss how the Plan is being supported and implemented and to hear real time feedback and suggestions from island communities. We fund the role of a dedicated project officer within SIF who supports the Islands Team to ensure island communities can influence the delivery of the Plan and its commitments.

SIF provides a conduit between island communities and policy and decision-making through learning exchange virtual events, working group discussions, social media, and direct emails which facilitates the implementation of the Plan and enables island communities to influence delivery of the Plan. This role has expanded and developed as engagement with policy and island communities grow.

In 2022, SIF's work to support the delivery of the Plan has included:

  • Housing: Two learning exchanges on community led housing which heard from successful island housing models, facilitated discussion on the Remote Rural and Island Housing Action Plan and included the Addressing Depopulation Action Plan. Following the success of the event SIF has set up a housing group which provides a space for island groups to share learning and support each other.
  • Resilience: A member session with Ipsos and the Scottish Government's Islands Team to reflect on the research into island resilience during the pandemic. Examples of community best practice were shared and enabled discussion with Scottish Government on current and future resilience. SIF also helps co-ordinate information gathering for Scottish Government on resilience issues impacting islands during disruptive events.
  • Islands Bond: The organisation and promotion of a series of twelve community workshops to explore the islands bond in Spring 2022. These events led directly to the reconsideration of the proposal. From a SIF member perspective, we have been told the events and Islands Team input and engagement have been very welcome.
  • Island Decarbonisation: The establishment of a working group which brings together thirteen community representatives from all six island areas. This provides feedback to support the development of the Carbon Neutral Islands programme and focusses on replicability and how best to facilitate exchanges between areas and levels of expertise, to bring islands as mentors and islands as mentees together.
  • Marine Litter: The setting up of a working group of island marine litter groups from across all six island Local Authority areas. This group meets monthly and has developed a methodology to increase the level of island marine litter data available. Working with this group and the wider group of island marine litter contacts, SIF has responded to the consultation on the Updated Marine Litter Strategy for Scotland. Key points raised included the need for recognition within the strategy of the situation on the ground in islands, which is significantly different to mainland coastal areas. Joint funding from Marine Scotland and the Scottish Government's Islands Programme support's a Marine Litter Network Development post within SIF.



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