As Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Land Reform and Islands, I am pleased to present the 2023 revision of the National Islands Plan Implementation Route Map.
The Implementation Route Map (IRM) details how Scottish Government are delivering our priorities over the lifetime of the National Islands Plan. It is designed to be a living document that will be continually updated and adapted, in recognition of the fact that priorities for island communities can change, enabling it to respond to fresh challenges as they arise.
Each year we publish a National Islands Plan Annual Report, looking back at the previous year and detailing the wide breadth of actions being taken across Scottish Government, to support our island communities. The Annual Report is then followed by an updated IRM, looking forward to the year ahead and setting out the actions for how the National Islands Plan commitments will be delivered in the coming year.
Many of the commitments in the National Islands Plan are of an ongoing nature, and whilst in 2022 we have been delighted to see the fulfilment of a number of commitments that had very specific remits, for others, they are of a nature where we must continue to take action on them and as such, they are categorised as 'ongoing'. Examples of this can be found under Strategic Objective 8, where we commit to 'Protect island biodiversity' or under Strategic Objective 2, where we commit to ensuring that 'crofting continues to provide jobs and opportunities to island communities'. Actions outlined in this IRM around these commitments and many others of this nature, demonstrate our ongoing ambitions to improve outcomes for island communities both this year and going forward.
I was recently delighted to announce the latest round of Islands Programme funding which sees capital investment of £4.1 million shared between 13 initiatives across our islands. This funding displays our commitment to enact our National Islands Plan across all six island authorities in Scotland in order to tackle island depopulation, boost local economies and bolster tourism.
We know that rural and island communities already face higher costs of living than other areas of the UK and this has only been exacerbated by the current Cost Crisis and the ongoing impact Brexit continues to have on island communities and businesses. With this in mind, and looking forward to the remainder of 2023, it will be more important than ever that we continue to support our island communities to enable them to flourish and achieve their full potential.
2023 will also see us begin the review process for the National Islands Plan, as required by the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018. The aim of the review is twofold. First, it will provide a detailed overview of the impact of the National Islands Plan since its publication. Second, it will inform (if the review tells us we need one) a new National Islands Plan which will subsequently be published in 2025.
An online consultation in respect of this will be launched shortly and I would like to encourage all islanders and people with an interest in islands to complete it. This will help us to understand how Scotland's first National Islands Plan has been received and the impact it has had. It will also help us to understand how we might improve upon the work already undertaken to ensure the best possible outcomes for island communities.
We will continue to work closely with both the Islands Strategic Group and the National Islands Plan Delivery Group in 2023, both of whom support the implementation of the National Islands Plan. The Islands Strategic Group allows for greater involvement of the relevant local authorities in helping design solutions to the challenges islanders face, whilst the Delivery Group ensures that work continues to be driven forward in a collaborative way that involves island communities.
Mairi Gougeon MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands
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