National Islands Plan Delivery Group minutes: June 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 9 June 2021.

Attendees and apologies


Scottish Government:

  • Phil Raines (PR), Rural Economy and Communities Deputy Director, Chair
  • Erica Clarkson (EC), Head of Islands Policy and Communities, member
  • Nicola Crook (NC), National Islands Plan Lead, Secretariat
  • Des Tinney, Scottish Government Team Leader Rural and Islands, Strategic Objective Lead
  • Cameron Anson (CA), Repopulation and Island Communities Policy Manager, Strategic Objective Lead
  • Lorraine Lowrie, Senior Island Communities Policy Lead, Strategic Objective Lead
  • Lewis Macaskill, Senior Island Communities Policy Lead, Strategic Objective Lead
  • Coinneach Morrison (CM), Islands Recovery and Policy Manager, Strategic Objective Lead
  • Ann MacDonald, Scottish Islands Federation Director, Secretariat

Members’ organisations:

  • Audrey Martin, Argyll and Bute Council Transformation Projects and Regeneration Manager, member
  • Lorraine Cunningham, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for Angus Murray
  • Gordon Morrison, Policy Manager, Highland Council, member 
  • Sarah Baird, North Ayrshire Council Senior Officer (Islands), member
  • Anna Whelan, Orkney Islands Council Strategy Manager, member
  • Peter Peterson, Shetland Islands Council Executive Manager, member
  • Mairi MacInnes, Bord na Gaidhlig Chair, member
  • Angus Campbell, Calmac Community Board Chair, member
  • Robert Nicol, COSLA Chair, member
  • Sandy Brunton, Development Trusts Association Scotland Chair, member
  • Douglas Cowan, Highlands and Islands Enterprise Communities and Place Director, member
  • Rachel Cowper, Inspiring Scotland Islands Green Recovery Programme Manager, member (for 1st meeting)
  • Julia Abel, Inspiring Scotland Head of Development, member (for subsequent meetings)
  • Hilary Stubbs, Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland Vice Convenor, member
  • Francesco Sindico, Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance Co-Director, member
  • Diarmaid Lawlor, Scottish Futures Trust Associate Director, member
  • Camille Dressler, Scottish Islands Federation Chair, member
  • Beth Mouat, University of the Highlands and Islands Islands Strategy Director, member


  • Angus Murray, Comhairle na Eilean Siar 
  • Magda Szymborska-Bishop, Scottish Government Islands Policy Officer

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

PR welcomed all to the first meeting of the National Islands Plan (NIP) Delivery Group which will support the Scottish Government with delivery of the NIP and Implementation Route Map and help to identify critical priorities as Scottish Government work towards meeting the NIP commitments.

The links and breadth of contacts and interests represented in the meeting to support future connections were noted together with the importance of the need to bring together interests.

Overview and background 

PR provided the background to the formation of the Delivery Group, from the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, the NIP consultation, the NIP, and the Implementation Route Map (IRM).  

PR invited comments on the draft Terms of Reference, document DG-02. Comments and queries were as follows:

It was noted that the Delivery Group will report into the Islands Strategic Group (ISG). A query was raised about the intentions for interfacing with communities and what plans there might be for formal interaction with communities.  PR acknowledged that it was important to reach out to communities (of interest and geographically) and it was intended this would be via the Thematic Groups. Further details on the Thematic Groups were provided later in the meeting.

A member asked how the younger generation could be involved and highlighted the importance of diversity within the Delivery Group. NC explained that the Young Islander pilot project leading to the Young Islanders Network will feed into the Thematic Groups. CA also confirmed that part of the work with the Young Islanders Network is to find out how they would like to engage with government, but they would be asked if they wished to be represented on the Delivery Group. PR confirmed this could be accommodated.

Action point:

  • YIN to be consulted on if they wish to be represented on the Delivery Group

A member highlighted that this is an important moment. The Delivery Group is a fantastic opportunity, and it is not just up to government to make the structure and process work.  

A query was raised about what is meant by a Programme Board (DG-02 4.2) and what input might be required on resolution of issues which are identified during the implementation of the NIP (DG-02 4.6). NC confirmed these points would be covered when discussing Governance Structure. PR added that the Terms of Reference are likely to evolve to reflect and accommodate issues raised during the life of the NIP.

A query was raised that the Delivery Group currently does not have any member from a business focussed organisation or background. It is intended that one of the Thematic Groups will cover Sustainable Economic Development which will provide opportunities for business groups and individuals to inform and shape the delivery of the NIP. It was noted that business covers many sectors and if a specific place on the Delivery Group  is allocated to a businessperson, that opportunity should be open to all. It was agreed that the Islands Team would give thought to this and report back.

Action point:

  • Scottish Government Islands Team to consider business representation on the Delivery Group. Potentially a representative from the Federation of Small Businesses

The importance of linking up different sections of Scottish Government policy and how this process will help to incorporate Community Wealth Building were highlighted. The need to keep a watching brief on UK Government funding was also noted to ensure all funding works together.

The Terms of Reference as set out in DG-02 were agreed by all.

Governance structure 

NC gave an overview of the National Islands Plan Governance structure, where the  Delivery Group sits within that and how the Delivery Group will be supported(See paper DG-03). This included an overview of the new model of information sharing and reporting between the proposed Thematic Groups, the Delivery Group and the Islands Strategic Group (ISG) leading to a more collaborative working arrangement with local authorities and islands stakeholders(See diagram point 5 DG-03). NC explained the history of the ISG, which will now be chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural and Island Communities. 

The Delivery Group will be a collaborative working space for Scottish Government, the six local authorities with islands and key stakeholders to work together and to report the Delivery Group’s strategic thinking to the ISG. It will highlight progress on the IRM, successes, areas where progress might not be as wished and how best to support those areas. 

NC gave a brief overview of the Islands Programme, which will invest £30m of capital funding over the next five years to support the delivery of the NIP.

It is hoped the Delivery Group will share experiences and projects and will feed into the SG Islands Team their shared learning to help structure priorities. The Islands Team will share key strategies and areas of work for insight and to create a channel of communication.

Action point:

  • it is intended that a report will be drafted after each Delivery Group meeting, approved by members and then sent to the ISG. The minutes of the meetings will form the basis of the report

NC asked for comments and suggestions on the above reporting structure and the following queries and points were made:

A query was raised how communities will get access to what the Delivery Group is doing. It is suggested that the Thematic Groups will be informed by their communities. NC confirmed the Islands Team are open to suggestions from the Delivery Group of how to include community input.  

Action point:

  • PR asked the members to consider at any early future meeting how the Delivery Group communicates its work to communities

Suggestions were made for information sharing including through the Scottish Islands Federation, Scottish Rural Network, the SG Islands Team social media accounts and through the print media to share press releases.  It was agreed that social media updates will be given when meetings have taken place and minutes are available.

A member pointed out that the Delivery Group should be looking for progress on all 13 Strategic Objectives in the NIP and DG-03 paragraph 6.1 indicates that the Delivery Group should be taking a strategic overview to ensure progress.

NC confirmed that the Delivery Group would not be asked to undertake equality impact assessments, but these would be discussed at project level if appropriate. Island Communities Impact Assessments would be shared with the Delivery Group.

The success of developing the NIP through co-working was acknowledged and it was stressed that priorities change. A question was asked whether one of the functions of the Delivery Group is prioritising. NC referred to the Covid Lens Survey and that the IRM is a living document, to be updated quarterly to reflect developments, achievements and new priorities. The Thematic Groups will help to inform the IRM, whether timescales are realistic and whether progress has been made.

A query was raised about research work as described in paper DG-03. NC explained the work on the National Islands Plan Survey which is due to be published at the end of June. A question was raised about whether there will be a Thematic Group underpinning research and what other research might be useful from other sources. It was noted that the Calmac Community Board has commissioned a major study of the socio-economic effects of the ferry network and how it influences life choices. DTAS also has various pieces of research. NC confirmed the Islands Team would be pleased to develop this point further and follow up with the academic partners and other members on the Delivery Group after the meeting. 

Action point:

  • Islands Team to consider potential for a Research Thematic Group

Thematic groups

NC provided an overview of suggestions for the development and membership of the Thematic Groups.It is suggested these are expert led focused Thematic Groups based on each of the NIP Strategic Objectives, but this was open for discussion. Each Thematic Group would be organised by the relevant Islands Team official who leads on that Strategic Objective and they would attend each Thematic Group with relevant Scottish Government colleagues.  

Initial thoughts on these meetings are that they would be held quarterly to exchange knowledge,highlight any successes and difficulties experienced and how they might link to delivery of the IRM. The Thematic Groups could provide feedback on how Scottish Government could make better progress, whether some outcomes should be removed, had been overlooked and whether new outcomes should be included in the updated IRM. They may also provide new key contacts.  

Action point:

  • NC asked the Delivery Group for feedback on these suggestions and approach and whether there was sufficient community involvement, with the caveat the Thematic Groups need to be a manageable size

The following points and queries were noted:

It was thought that the above framework was a good starting point with sufficient flexibility to adapt to changes as required as work progress.

It was suggested that the Thematic Groups could also report direct to the ISG if required, in addition to the Delivery Group.

Discussion followed on the number of participants in each group and a range of 12-15 was suggested based on experiences from the IRM working parties.  NC confirmed that experts in key groups would be involved based on specialisms and experience, not island location or geography. 

Action point:

  • NC asked the Delivery Group members to consider who might be suitable for the Thematic Groups

It was noted that the IRM workshops had already identified a wide range of potential Thematic Group members but that it was important to ensure a wide range of participants.

Several members confirmed they would like to attend some Thematic Group meetings to gain further information on the issues being discussed. It was suggested that the Thematic Group agendas could be shared with the Delivery Group. The Islands Team agreed this would be appropriate. The need for interaction between the Delivery Group and the Thematic Groups was highlighted.

It was noted that there are already a large number of relevant bodies listed in the IRM and it would be challenging to limit the size of each Thematic Group to 15. It was agreed it would be useful in some circumstances to have connectivity across the Thematic Groups, as some Strategic Objectives also have common threads running through them.

It was asked whether it would it be possible to have diverse representation if numbers are restricted. A concern was raised that there needs to be sufficient representation, with a wide variety and diversity of participants.

NC confirmed it was important to aim for depth not breadth in many cases and gave the example of providing a survey before the IRM workshops to establish what would be discussed. Discussion followed on whether the Delivery Group would set priorities and focus.

A number of practical questions were asked including who would chair each Thematic Group and who would provide the secretariat. NC confirmed Islands Team leads would chair each Thematic Group and the Islands Team would provide the secretariat.

A suggestion for an alternative structure for the Thematic Groups was made by a member. The Thematic Groups could be held for three reasons: 

  • as short life needs focused groups
  • to deal with emerging issues
  • in a conference format to meet the challenge of multi voice contributors, allowing more open discussion

Action point:

  • NC agreed that the Islands Team would consider the possibilities and propose suggestions to the Delivery Group for consideration before the next meeting

The importance of connectivity and alignment across other groups and Government policy areas was stressed by several members and agreed by the Islands Team.

The delivery format of future meetings was discussed. NC confirmed that the current intention is for all Delivery and Thematic Group meetings to be online. Discussion followed on the possibility of running an initial virtual conference (similar to the Scottish Rural Parliament event) over 2-3 days to bring together discussions with key slots for key objectives and thematic workshops to help draw out members for the Thematic Groups. The successful experiences of the 2021 SRA Rural Parliament event were shared. However, the financial and resource costs of preparing and hosting such an event were noted.  

Action point:

  • Islands Team to consider possibilities and report back

PR gave his apologies and left the meeting. EC took over as Chair.

The importance of remaining focused on the outcomes set out in the IRM was highlighted. The three Strategic Objectives highlighted as priority in the Covid Lens Survey were suggested as a good place to concentrate the Group’s first attentions. It was agreed that the priorities have already been identified and a member stressed that the Group should focus on delivery and showing improvements.  

Action point:

  • NC will email members asking them to confirm their agreement that the Delivery Group should focus on the top three priority Strategic Objectives (Sustainable Economic Development, Transport and Digital Connectivity) plus Housing, and asking for their thoughts on holding a conference at the year end

One member emphasised that the Delivery Group need to be clear about what it is asking of those involved in the Thematic Groups. It should be focussed, deliverable and manageable for the Thematic Groups and assist the Delivery Group in making things happen.

Steps forward 

EC gave an update on the five year £30m Islands Programme. 

Action point:

  • an overview of this year’s Islands Programme will be sent out in the coming weeks

CM gave an update on one proposed strand of the Islands Programme, the Island Communities Fund, which will build on the Islands Green Recovery Fund in 2020-21. Details are due to be announced later in June. Thanks were given to Inspiring Scotland for their work on this with SG.

A point was raised that care should be taken to ensure the Islands Programme application process is as inclusive as possible with minimal red tape to reflect the different capacities on islands.  

EC confirmed that the National Islands Plan Survey is due to be published shortly. This will provide island level data to help inform the NIP and the Islands Team’s work. NC would greatly appreciate feedback as it is the Islands Team’s intention to run the survey every two years.

EC confirmed that Scottish Government will endeavour to reach out to communities and ensure a wide variety of voices and participants are included in the Thematic Groups.

The Cabinet Secretary will be chairing the next ISG which will take place on 22 June and the Islands Team will provide the ISG with an overview of the inaugural Delivery Group meeting.

EC summarised the meeting and action points which included:


  • terms of Reference
  • papers will be circulated prior to meetings on a timely basis
  • the Delivery Group will report back to the ISG by written minutes and a quarterly summary report.
  • public updates will be given after meetings via social media and Scottish Government website

Action points:   

  • agreement that Strategic Objectives of Sustainable Economic Development, Transport and Digital Connectivity, plus Housing, are priority for consideration in the immediate future - NC to email members - responsibility: members to respond - deadline/action date: July 
  • Islands Team to consider including a new Thematic Group for research on island data - responsibility: NC to discuss with Academic members - deadline/action date: end of July
  • Islands Team to ask members to consider a) potential members for the Thematic Groups and b) size of Thematic Groups - responsibility: NC - members to respond - deadline/action date: mid July
  • Islands Team to ask members to respond with views on format for Thematic Groups (Conference? based on Strategic Objectives?) - responsibility: NC - deadline/action date: members to respond - mid July
  • Islands Team to consider suggestion of verbal report by a nominated Delivery Group member to the ISG, and Islands Team to provide suggestions how the Delivery Group can feed into the ISG - responsibility: NC to report at next meeting - deadline/action date: end of August
  • members to advise how they believe the Delivery Group should communicate its work to communities - responsibility: members - deadline/action date: next meeting
  • Young Islanders pilot to be consulted on membership of Delivery Group - responsibility: CA - deadline/action date: mid July
  • Islands Team to conclude on Business representative on Delivery Group - responsibility: EC - deadline/action date: mid July
  • draft minutes of first meeting to be sent to attendees - responsibility: NC - deadline/action date: mid July 
  • Islands Team to send members an overview of the 2021-22 Islands Programme - responsibility: NC - deadline/action date: mid July 
  • members to provide feedback on National Islands Plan Survey results - responsibility: members - deadline/action date: next meeting
  • Islands Team to consider how best to address Social Media coverage of the Delivery and Thematic Groups activities - responsibility: NC to update at next meeting - deadline/action date: end of August
  • Islands Team to update ISG on inaugural meeting - responsibility: NC - deadline/action date: 22 June
  • Islands Team to create an action tracker to monitor delivery of actions identified in the meeting - responsibility: MSB - deadline/action date: done
  • update ISG page on SG website - responsibility: NC - deadline/action date: July 
  • update SG website with relevant DG information and minutes - responsibility: NC/MSB - deadline/action date: July/August


It was agreed that quarterly meetings (minimum) would be required to match the Thematic Group and ISG meetings, with the possibility of more frequent meetings if necessary. EC confirmed the Islands Team would accommodate more if requested.

The Islands Team will communicate with the Delivery Group members outwith these times to provide updates on Thematic Groups and action points.

The next Delivery Group meeting is scheduled provisionally for w/c 9 August 2021 and then w/c 22 November. 

EC thanked everyone for their attendance, input and support at the first meeting. Notes of the meeting will be circulated.

The meeting closed at 5pm.

Back to top