National Islands Plan
18. According to the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, the purpose of the Plan is “to set out the main objectives and strategy of the Scottish Ministers in relation to improving outcomes for island communities that result from, or are contributed to by, the carrying out of functions of a public nature”.
19. Section 3(3) of the Act provides a number of areas for improving outcomes for island communities, including:
a) iincreasing population levels;
b) improving and promoting: (i) sustainable economic development;
(ii) environmental wellbeing; (iii) health and wellbeing, and (iv) community empowerment;
c) improving transport services;
d) improving digital connectivity;
e) reducing fuel poverty;
f) ensuring effective management of the Scottish Crown Estate (that is, the property, rights and interests to which section 90B(5) of the Scotland Act 1998 applies); and
g) enhancing biosecurity (including protecting islands from the impact of invasive non-native species).
20. However, it is crucial to note that this is not an exhaustive list. The National Islands Plan is not limited by Section 3(3), but rather will develop organically from the data gathered during the consultation process. Consequently, the National Islands Plan will include objectives and strategies related to those sectors linked to the carrying out of functions of a public nature, that will improve outcomes for island communities, even outcomes not included in section 3(3).
21. The first draft of the National Islands Plan must come before Scottish Parliament within 12 months of Part 2 of the Act coming into force, which in this instance means a draft of the Plan must be submitted by 4 October 2019.
22. In so far as possible, the National Islands Plan will include means to measure whether the outcomes identified have improved for island communities. This may well require the use of indicators, which will assess the degree of success in progress towards the objectives set out in the National Islands Plan.
23. In this respect, the Scottish Ministers will report on the Plan annually to monitor its progress and to consider where outcomes may or may not have improved. In addition, the Scottish Ministers will also review the National Islands Plan before the end of the period of 5 years beginning with the day on which the plan was last published.
24. Essentially, the National Islands Plan is an opportunity for island communities to highlight the issues they are currently facing. By participating in the consultation, island communities have the possibility to ensure that these concerns are directly reflected in the National Islands Plan.
25. The National Islands Plan should also be a space to celebrate islands and island communities as successful places and thriving environments. Through this consultation we want to capture your success stories; positioning them at the forefront of the National Islands Plan so that good practices can be shared amongst island communities not only in Scotland, but globally.
26. Overall, our vision is that the National Islands Plan will set out a number of objectives across all policy areas to support, promote and empower our island communities. Implementation of the National Islands Plan will improve the quality of life of island communities by fully taking into account the unique context of each island and by developing a system of reporting and review that will promote accountability.
27. The Islands (Scotland) Act clarifies that “[I]n preparing the national islands plan, the Scottish Ministers must consult each local authority listed in the schedule, such other persons as they consider represent the interests of island communities, and such persons (including members of island communities and other persons) as they consider likely to be affected by or have an interest in the proposals contained in the plan”.
28. Accordingly, Scottish Government has decided to undertake a wide consultation with island communities. However, this is not simply a procedural requirement, but an essential means to properly develop the National Islands Plan in a way that truly responds “to the distinctive geographical, natural heritage and cultural characteristics (including the linguistic heritage) of each of the areas inhabited by island communities.”
29. Developing a plan which responds to “linguistic heritage” will include asking island communities how the Plan should take into account the needs of Gaelic speakers in island communities, and how this will interact with any commitments made by authorities in any Gaelic language plan they have produced under the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005.