Publication - Minutes

National Islands Plan Delivery Group minutes: August 2021

Published: 24 Nov 2021
Date of meeting: 19 Aug 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 19 August 2021.

Published:
24 Nov 2021
National Islands Plan Delivery Group minutes: August 2021

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

Scottish Government:

  • Phil Raines (PR), Rural Economy and Communities Deputy Director, Chair
  • Erica Clarkson (EC), Head of Islands Policy and Communities
  • Nicola Crook (NC), National Islands Plan Lead
  • Des Tinney (DT), Island Communities Team Leader 
  • Cameron Anson, Repopulation and Island Communities Policy Manager, Strategic Objective Lead
  • Lorraine Lowrie (LL), Senior Island Communities Policy Lead
  • Lewis Macaskill, Senior Island Communities Policy Lead
  • Coinneach Morrison (CM), Islands Recovery and Policy Manager
  • Magda Szymborska-Bishop (MS-B), Islands Policy Officer

Members’ organisations:

  • Audrey Martin, Argyll and Bute Council
  • Angus Murray, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Sarah Baird, North Ayrshire Council 
  • Anna Whelan, Orkney Islands Council
  • Peter Peterson, Shetland Islands Council 
  • Mairi MacInnes, Bòrd na Gàidhlig Chair
  • Angus Campbell, CalMac Community Board Chair
  • Robert Nicol, COSLA Chair
  • Sandy Brunton, Development Trusts Association Scotland
  • Lucy Conway, Inspiring Scotland
  • Hilary Stubbs, Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland 
  • Dr Francesco Sindico, Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance 
  • Camille Dressler, Scottish Islands Federation Chair
  • Beth Mouat, University of the Highlands and Islands 
  • David Richardson, Federation of Small Businesses
  • Ann MacDonald, Scottish Islands Federation (Secretariat)

Apologies:

  • Kate Lackie, Highland Council 
  • Diarmaid Lawlor, Scottish Futures Trust 

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

PR welcomed all to the second meeting of the National Islands Plan (NIP) Delivery Group. No comments were made on the draft minutes which were  therefore approved.

Action points

NC gave an update on action points. An action tracker has been created and will be sent out to the group following this meeting.

Action:

  • NC to send Action tracker to members

Communications and social media

LL gave an update on communications and social media and discussed how the group’s work could be communicated best with islands communities. 

The possibility of a conference had been briefly discussed at the previous meeting. SG had considered this in the interim. It was agreed at this stage that a conference would not be the best use of time and resources, but this would be considered going forward into 2022-23.

As an update from the last meeting, the Islands Strategic Group information on the gov.scot website page is in the process of being updated and SG will share the link to this and a separate Delivery Group page which is currently under development once they goes live.

Action:

  • LL to share links with members to Delivery Group and Islands Strategic Group pages

Members had been asked to consider how best to communicate with island communities. It was agreed that Facebook and Twitter continue to be the most successful and widely used media. It was however highlighted that not everyone uses, or has access to social media. The importance of using local, Highland, and Gaelic radio was stressed. LL confirmed that updates would be put on the gov.scot pages and on Twitter - Scottish Islands Team and Facebook - Scottish Islands Team. Updates will also be included in the SRN newsletter.

Islands Strategic Group update

EC gave an update on the Islands Strategic Group (ISG) meeting which had taken place on 6 July 2021. This was the first meeting of the ISG attended by the new Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands. It was a very positive meeting which had included updates on the SNP manifesto commitments, the Islands Bond, Carbon Neutral Islands, the Islands Programme funding, Island Communities Impact Assessments and various policy developments including Transport and Population. 

The ISG had welcomed the suggestion of a member of the NIP Delivery Group attending each meeting to provide regular updates. EC asked for suggestions on how this person might be selected and for any volunteers. It was agreed that this should be a rotational role and SG will provide the reporting member with a full briefing. The following Delivery Group members volunteered to attend the next ISG meetings (in order) Angus Murray, Anna Whelan, Beth Mouat and Hilary Stubbs. Details of dates and times will also be provided for others to consider future attendance.  

Action:

  • MS-B will send meeting notes to Angus Murray in anticipation of the next ISG meeting on 15 September. M S-B to provide ISG dates and times for all Delivery Group members

PR asked the group to consider how it could help set the agenda for the ISG meetings in order to highlight or advance any key issues, for example the National Care Service. It was suggested that links with CoHI particularly for population work would be helpful. It was noted that a number of the Islands Team are already embedded in CoHI and the Senior Officers Group (SOG). The importance of connectivity, digital and transport was stressed, and it was noted these were already on the agenda. The Minister for Transport has been invited to the next ISG to discuss various issues. Adult Social Care work is also to be discussed by the ISG. It was explained that there will be more themes for future ISG meetings, and it would be very helpful if the Delivery Group could help inform those meetings.

National Islands Plan survey

NC introduced the National Islands Plan (NIP) survey. The NIP consultation and subsequent SG scoping had identified a lack of island level data, leading to potential difficulties in measuring NIP progress. In response to that lack of data, the NIP survey had been launched earlier this year, undertaken by the James Hutton Institute, and the results have now been published

Miles Welstead, a PhD intern for Edinburgh University with the Rural and Environmental Science and Analytical Service (RESAS) within SG, gave an update on the main findings from the survey. Miles was thanked for his presentation and time. Current thinking is that the survey will be conducted every two years, which will provide useful comparison results and help analyse progress of the NIP.

A discussion followed on the survey findings. It was noted that there is some evidence of a difference between perceptions as expressed in the survey and actual data on the ground. It was agreed that it would be important to look at where there are those differences and what is in fact the situation. NC explained that the survey complements other statistical data being gathered and collating data is a work in progress. The potential to conduct island profiles was also mentioned and this is being considered further. PR agreed that SG Islands Team would bring a short paper to the next meeting about the data which would inform the NIP and Delivery Group decisions. 

Action:

  • SG to produce an Island Level Data paper for the next meeting

Further data was provided by David Richardson from the Federation of Small Businesses on an Islands Business survey in 2017 which had identified top priorities including having an increase in economically active people and engaging young people. DR offered to share these findings. NC explained that the NIP Survey results included an interactive tool to integrate the data and agreed to send the link to the group. 

Action:

  • NC to send link to NIP Survey and interactive tool

Islands Programme and 2021-2022 strands

PR introduced an update on the three strands of the Islands Programme for 2021-22.

CM gave an outline of the £2 million Island Communities Fund which was launched in June and closed on 16 July. The fund had received 180 applications for just under £16 million, with an average application of £89,000. Applications were currently going through external scoping and internal due diligence.  

The SG Islands Team (SGIT) were working hard looking at potential alternative funding streams for any applications that may be out with scope or are deemed to be unsuccessful. It was agreed that it is important to react to the oversubscription and to try to find a way of enabling uptake via other funding sources. CM explained that SGIT were reaching out to other policy areas. 

Additional challenges were identified including the relative short window for spend and completion by 31 March 2022. CM explained that as a result of the UK Government funding mechanisms for Scottish Government, the finance rules mean that the money has to be spent by 31 March. This condition had been made clear in the application process to ensure only feasible projects were selected.  

It was agreed that better communications and further liaison between UKG and SG would help local authorities and community groups generally in terms of national funding. The importance of aligning different funds with local authority criteria and thresholds was highlighted by several members. The uncertainty over the funds’ future and the impact this has on groups being able to plan was also highlighted by several members.

NC provided an update on the design and progress of the Islands Infrastructure Fund. Two key projects (Kerrera track upgrade and Fair Isle Bird Observatory rebuild) totalling £1.2 million have been approved as a result of early community input and collaboration with HIE and the local authorities. A further £5 million allocation will be made direct to the six island local authorities via a Capital Grant offer letter for 2021-22 against specific criteria linked to the National Islands Plan and Islands Programme objectives. 

The options for distributing this across the local authorities have been discussed with the ISG and the COSLA Settlement Distribution Group (SDG). The SDG has recommended that the distribution follows the acknowledged allocation ratio based on 75% population and 25% road length. This will be formally approved by COSLA at the end of August. It was noted this is the normal process and follows the traditional system of distribution.  

Concerns were raised about the traditional method of allocation, old models of funding infrastructure and one based on the now dated 2011 census. It was agreed that it was important to discuss the basis of allocation and to make sure the funding is directed to making a critical difference. The use of the word “transformational” in several funding programmes was brought to the Group’s attention and it was stressed that transformational can also apply to keeping things going, not just new projects. It was noted that the Delivery Group was a good place to pick up discussions on programme development for future reference. NC confirmed that the local authorities would be notified of the allocations and a grant letter issued as soon as possible after approval by the Cabinet Secretary.

DT provided details on the Healthy Islands Fund.  The NIP consultation, results of the ‘Islands Through a Covid Lens’ work and the NIP Survey results all reveal a strong need for improved wellbeing in the islands. Using the format of the Island Communities Fund and to be delivered by Inspiring Scotland, the HIF will be a £1.3 million fund for community led wellness initiatives to influence better lifestyles on islands. It will comprise mainly capital funding with an element of revenue resource funding to assist delivery of projects. The importance of reaching smaller third sector voluntary groups was emphasised. DT confirmed SG were in contact with National Rural Mental Health and would use island stakeholders, social media, local authorities, and the Third Sector Interfaces to promote the fund.

EC confirmed that all the Island Programme strands are based on the NIP Strategic Objectives, and that the NIP survey has also informed the funds’ criteria. The five year £30 million Islands Programme is to support delivery of the National Islands Plan. 

In light of the above discussions, PR welcomed a paper to invite further views about the strands.

Action:

  • SGIT to draft paper inviting views and understanding the learning around the Islands Programme strands this year and how we could allocate funding in future years

Gaelic Plan

A brief update on the next Gaelic Plan was given by Mairi MacInnes. The importance of Gaelic in traditional and island communities and its preservation was highlighted. The requirements for Gaelic development and assistance were noted and will be picked up through the Islands Strategic Group.

Islands Bond consultation

LL provided information about the recently launched Islands Bond consultation which closes on 24 October 2021. Over 1000 responses have been received in the first three weeks. SG has had targeted engagement with local authorities on this and will be contacting LA representatives on the DG in the coming weeks to schedule one to one discussion meetings for their areas. Delivery Group members have been asked for comments and because of meeting time constraints, members were asked to email any further questions to rirt@gov.scot where LL and CA will pick up any enquiries. PR agreed that future meetings would return to discussing the Islands Bond further.

Thematic groups

NC gave an update on development of the Thematic Groups which it was agreed would cover five Strategic Objectives (Transport, Sustainable Economic Development and Digital Connectivity, plus Housing) and a research-focussed group. NC agreed to provide members with a draft list of potential members of the groups by the end of the month and draft terms of reference. These are initial suggestions only and the Delivery Group is encouraged to provide additional suggestions.

Action:

  • NC to send members potential membership of the thematic groups

National Strategy for Economic Transformation

PR gave an update on the National Strategy for Economic Transformation consultation which closes on 27 August. People across Scotland are being encouraged to share their views on how the country can work together to deliver greater, greener and fairer prosperity. SG are keen to engage with stakeholders. Given the unique island perspective on this, members were urged to share and respond.

AOCB

EC noted that a report on the operation of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 is due by early July 2022, and a draft will come to the Delivery Group in due course for their input and consideration.

PR closed the meeting by thanking all for their attendance, support, and encouragement.  

Action:

  • the group is still a work in progress and SG and members are asked to consider how to a) make full use of the membership and b) structure the group to do that. Feedback is welcomed

Next meeting

The next meeting will take place on 24 November 2021. 

Summary of actions from meeting

  • NIPDG Action Tracker to members. Assigned to: SG Islands Team
  • links to Delivery Group and Islands Strategic Group pages on gov.scot to be shared with members. Assigned to: SG Islands Team
  • NIPDG meeting notes to be shared with Angus Murray in anticipation of the ISG meeting on 15 September. Assigned to: SG Islands Team
  • ISG dates and times to be sent to Delivery Group members. Assigned to: SG Islands Team
  • SG to produce an Island Level Data paper for the next meeting. Assigned to: SG Islands Team
  • link to NIP Survey and interactive tool to be sent to members. Assigned to: SG Islands Team
  • Islands Team to draft paper inviting views and understanding the learning around the Islands Programme strands this year and how we could allocate funding in future years. Assigned to: SG Islands Team
  • summary of suggested potential membership of the thematic groups to be sent to members. Assigned to: SG Islands Team
  • the group is still a work in progress and SG and members are asked to consider how to a) make full use of the membership and b) structure the group to do that.  Feedback is welcomed. Assigned to: all NIPDG members