National Islands Plan review: consultation analysis

The report sets out the main findings of the public consultation carried out to inform a review of the National Islands Plan 2019.

1 Introduction

1.1 The Scottish Government carried out a consultation on a review of the National Islands Plan between 18 July and 7 November 2023. This report presents the findings from an analysis of the consultation responses received.

Policy context

1.2 The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 (hereafter, ‘the Islands Act’) was introduced to help meet the unique needs of Scotland’s islands – now and in the future – by supporting sustainable economic growth and improving outcomes for, and empowering, island communities.

1.3 The Islands Act places a duty on the Scottish Government and other relevant public authorities to ‘island proof’ their functions and decisions. This means an Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA) must be considered when developing policies, strategies and services that are expected to have a significantly different effect on an island community as compared with other communities (both mainland communities and other island communities) in Scotland.

1.4 The Islands Act also requires Scottish Ministers to produce a National Islands Plan in consultation with the people who live and work on Scotland’s islands. The plan must set out objectives and a strategy for improving outcomes for island communities. Scottish Ministers are required to publish an annual report on progress toward the objectives of the plan and to undertake a formal review of the plan every five years.

1.5 The first National Islands Plan was published in December 2019, and a review of this plan is now underway. The review will focus on the impacts of the current plan and will consider whether it now needs to be updated, refreshed or renewed. The Islands Act requires a consultation to take place as part of the review.

The consultation

1.6 The consultation paper on the National Islands Plan review was published on 18 July 2023. The consultation was open to the public but was specifically targeted at (i) people who live on Scotland’s islands, and any groups who represent them, (ii) people who have an interest in Scotland’s islands, and (iii) organisations and people working on and with Scotland’s islands, across the public, private and third sectors. The consultation was promoted widely through social media and the press, and through information shared with key stakeholder groups in islands communities.

1.7 The consultation contained 11 numbered questions and addressed the following topics:

  • Knowledge of the current National Islands Plan (Q1)
  • The impacts of the current plan on people’s lives (Q2 and Q3)
  • The contents of the current plan (Q4, Q6 and Q7)
  • The progress made against the plan’s objectives, and what has worked well and less well (Q5, Q8 and Q9)
  • Whether there is a need for a new or revised plan (Q10 and Q11).

1.8 The online questionnaire also invited respondents to indicate their connection to Scotland’s islands – whether they (i) were a permanent island resident, (ii) were a part-time island resident, (iii) had previously lived on an island, (iv) commuted to an island for work, or (v) had some other type of connection to Scotland’s islands. Space was provided for respondents to give further details.

1.9 The consultation paper was published on the Scottish Government’s consultation webpage. Respondents were invited to complete an online questionnaire or submit a response by email or post. The consultation closed on 7 November 2023.

1.10 In addition to the online (public) consultation, the Scottish Government carried out 16 workshops. Thirteen of these were in-person workshops, including one which was held at the 2023 meeting of the Scottish Rural and Islands Parliament in Fort William. Three events were held online. Workshops were promoted widely in local communities through social media and the press. Workshop attendees were invited to give their views on six open questions covering three themes: (i) awareness, (ii) focus, and (iii) governance. The workshop questions were different to the questions in the public consultation. The key findings from each workshop were summarised by Scottish Government officials, and an analysis of the summaries is included in this report.

1.11 The islands visited during the in-person events were:

  • Arran
  • Bressay
  • Colonsay
  • Cumbrae
  • Eigg
  • Grimsay
  • Isle of Lewis
  • Isle of Skye
  • Mull
  • Orkney Mainland
  • Shetland Mainland
  • Westray

About the analysis

1.12 Frequency analysis was undertaken in relation to all closed (tick-box) questions and the findings are presented in tables throughout this report. Not all respondents answered all closed questions, and therefore the total number shown in each table is the number of respondents who answered that question.

1.13 Very occasionally, respondents may not have answered a closed question (i.e. they did not tick a box in response to the question), but their comments stated or strongly implied their response to the closed question. In such cases, the response to the closed question was imputed (i.e. added at the analysis stage). Thus, the tables throughout this report include a small number of these imputed responses.

1.14 Qualitative thematic analysis was undertaken in relation to respondents’ comments. The aim of the qualitative analysis was to identify the main themes, as well as the full range of views submitted in response to each question (or group of questions), and to explore areas of agreement and disagreement in views between different groups of respondents. A thematic analysis of the workshop summaries was also undertaken.

A caveat about the findings

1.15 As with all consultations it is important to bear in mind that the views of those who have responded may not be representative of the views of the wider population. Individuals (and organisations) who have a keen interest in a topic – and the capacity to respond – are more likely to participate in a consultation than those who do not. This self-selection means that the views of consultation participants cannot be generalised to the wider population.

1.16 For this reason, the approach to consultation analysis is primarily qualitative in nature. Its main purpose is not to identify how many people held particular views, but rather to understand the full range of views expressed and any concerns that respondents may have. The qualitative analysis will help in understanding the responses to the closed questions and gaining greater insight into people’s views.

The report

1.17 The remainder of this report is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 2 presents information about the respondents to the consultation, and the 16 workshops carried out by the Scottish Government.
  • Chapters 3 to 6 present the results of analysis of the responses to the consultation questions.
  • Chapter 7 presents an analysis of the workshop summaries.

1.18 In addition, this report includes four annexes. Annex 1 contains a list of the organisational respondents. Annex 2 sets out the response rates for each of the consultation questions, with a breakdown by respondent type. Annex 3 presents respondents’ views on the progress made towards individual strategic objectives, by respondent type. Annex 4 provides a thematic collation of comments made at the workshops.



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