National Islands Plan and islands communities impact assessment guidance: consultation

The Plan will set out how the Scottish Government, local authorities and other public agencies might work to improve outcomes for island communities.

The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018

The Islands Act contains 32 sections, arranged into 6 Parts, as follows: 

12. Part 1 – Key definitions: This Part sets out the definition of an island, an inhabited island, and an island community. An island includes all naturally formed areas enclosed by the sea - ignoring the addition of man-made structures such as bridges, which means that the Isle of Skye is included. An inhabited island is defined as being permanently inhabited by at least one individual, whilst island community is interpreted broadly to include communities of common interest whether resident on a single island; or spanning a group of islands. Within these parameters, even two people can constitute an island community.

13. Part 2 – National Islands Plan: This places a duty on Scottish Ministers to prepare, lay before the Scottish Parliament and publish a 'National Islands Plan', which will set out the main objectives and strategy of the Scottish Government in relation to how relevant authorities might help to improve outcomes for island communities. The first draft of the Plan must come before Scottish Parliament within 12 months of Part 2 of the Act coming into force. Ministers will report on the Plan annually to monitor progress and to consider where outcomes may or may not have improved. 

14. Part 3 – Duties in relation to island communities: These provisions require relevant authorities, including the majority of public bodies including the Scottish Ministers, to have regard to island communities in carrying out their functions. To comply with this duty, relevant authorities must make arrangements to review their policies, strategies and services and either prepare an Island Communities Impact Assessment where that is required (see below), or otherwise assess or take appropriate steps in relation to the policy, strategy or service in question. There is a power for Ministers to issue guidance in relation to the duty. An Island Communities Impact Assessment is required where a policy, strategy or service is considered likely to have a significantly different impact on island communities.  A similar duty is imposed on the Scottish Ministers in relation to legislation, which, in their view is likely to have an effect on an island community which is significantly different from its effect on other communities in Scotland

15. Part 4 – Representation of island communities: This Part provides for the protection of the Scottish parliamentary constituency boundary of Na h-Eileanan an Iar from variation (thus placing it on the same basis as Orkney and Shetland). It also, allows an exception to be made, in respect of areas with inhabited islands, to the usual three or four member ward rule for local government electoral wards and allows areas with inhabited islands to return one or two members instead of three or four. This is an effort to increase flexibility and subsequently reduce the likelihood of island communities being part of a ward which also includes part of the mainland, and therefore being represented by a councillor who is not resident on an island.

16. Part 5 (and section 15) – Additional Powers Requests: These provisions require the Scottish Ministers to establish a scheme to allow local authorities to request that additional devolved functions, duties or responsibilities be transferred to them. The Act requires that a draft of the regulations establishing the scheme must be laid before the Scottish Parliament before 6 July 2019.

17. Part 6 – Development in the Scottish island marine area: This provision allows the Scottish Ministers to establish a scheme to licence development adjacent to or within 12 nautical miles of an island, in respect of designated island licensing areas.  Areas may be designated only on application by a local authority. This broadly reflects the powers to licence development works in inshore areas currently available in Orkney and Shetland through private Acts of Parliament. If the licence is granted, the person will have to carry out the activity in compliance with the terms set by the respective local authority. 



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