1. The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 was granted Royal Assent last July with the first set of provisions coming into force on 4 October 2018. The Act introduces a number of measures to underpin the Scottish Government’s key objective of ensuring that there is a sustained focus across Government and the public sector to meet the needs of island communities now and in the future.
2. Two important provisions within the Act are the development of a National Islands Plan and a duty for certain authorities to have regard to island communities in carrying out their functions. There are specific requirements in respect of the development and delivery of policies, strategies and services as well as the development of legislation. The Act will ensure that the particular needs and circumstances of islands communities are considered by certain authorities.
3. The Act requires that Scottish Ministers must consult with island authorities, people who represent the interests of island communities and those who might be affected by, or have an interest in, the proposals contained in the final National Islands Plan. This is a historic moment for island communities in Scotland. Our Islands have a concrete opportunity to shape their future in a way that aligns with their unique geographical, natural heritage and cultural characteristics.
4. The National Islands Plan will be a document that will include both what works well, and what are the challenges faced by islands and their communities. Moving ahead, the Plan will set out future strategies and objectives that will allow Scottish Ministers and relevant authorities to improve outcomes for island communities. Scottish Ministers will be asked to report back to Scottish Parliament annually on progress towards the goals included in the National Islands Plan. The latter will, hence, shape how Scottish Government and other relevant authorities interact with island and island communities in the future.
5. The rationale behind Island Communities Impact Assessments is that sometimes decisions taken from the mainland can have an impact on island communities. The Islands (Scotland) Act acknowledges that not one size fits all and Island Communities Impact Assessments will be one way in which relevant authorities will be able to consider the impact of their work on islands. Guidance will be developed on how these impact assessments will operate.
6. The consultation laid out in this document will allow island communities to proactively engage and contribute to the development of the National Islands Plan. Furthermore, the consultation will allow island communities to comment on the provision of Island Communities Impact Assessments, which are also at the heart of the Islands (Scotland) Act. We are indebted to you for your contribution to this process.