National Islands Plan through a COVID Lens: survey results

Summary of key findings after the six main local authorities with islands were invited to consider the impact of the (COVID-19) pandemic on the delivery of National Island Plan commitments and how these should be prioritised going forward.

Barriers to Local Recovery and Mitigations

In question five, LAs were asked to highlight identified barriers to local recovery (short/medium/long-term), and provide suggestions regarding how these might be mitigated going forward. Summary responses are provided below and full responses are available at Annex A.

Argyll and Bute Council

  • There are concerns that island communities feel more vulnerable, which needs to be addressed.
  • Islands are heavily reliant on visitors from an economic development perceptive. There needs to be a move away from the high reliance on the Tourism sector and we need to look at the creation of more sustainable and well paid jobs linked to our natural environment.
  • There is an increased need for local decision making set within the context of the national recovery.
  • There is a need for the public sector to take the lead and for the creation of a regional economic partnership to be created and supported with funding from SG to support jobs and infrastructure investment in the areas that are most fragile.
  • Early intervention will prevent islands falling behind.
  • Island communities have an important role in a green national recovery. To make this a reality, sufficient resources will be required, including making it more attractive for the private sector to invest in island communities.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

  • All sectors will take some time to recover from the financial shock of COVID-19 and markets/working practices will have to dramatically change.
  • Some businesses will simply not survive. Businesses will need to be supported to move forward, including investing in new working practices for staff and customers, increasing digital capacity and presence, supporting innovation, while also supporting the concept of localism within the economy to better withstand future shocks.
  • The Scottish Government should allow flexibility in how national policies and fiscal measures can be adapted and delivered at the local level in order to support adaptation to this new working environment, and to enable responsiveness to island-specific issues as we emerge from COVID-19.
  • Some islands and some economic sectors have been more severely affected than others, the full detail of this will emerge in coming months. Recognition of this in the Scottish Government responses, and in the implementation of the National Islands Plan would be beneficial.
  • Some islands and communities will face greater challenges in a post-COVID 19 environment than others due to the extent to which sectors such as tourism, fishing and aquaculture have provided a significant source of employment and income.
  • Outer Hebrides Tourism have highlighted in recent correspondence that in parts of the Outer Hebrides such as Harris and Barra, tourism accounts for as much as 40% of economic activity. It is important to bear in mind that the visitor season usually starts in March and is unlikely to resume at full capacity even once travel restrictions are lifted.

North Ayrshire Council

  • The community of Arran is divided in its response to the easing of restrictions.
  • This presents a challenge we move into recovery since we need to progress together.
  • Part of the community are happy to see health prioritised and travel restricted to all but full time residents or supplies and services.
  • The reliance on the island community for leisure and tourism is at direct odds with this.

Orkney Islands Council

  • Government support will be needed to enable our transport operators to provide sufficient capacity to carry passengers at a lower density.
  • The sudden demand to work remotely has highlighted digital inequality in both infrastructure provision and socio-economic capacity.
  • It is likely that home working will remain essential for many during the recovery period and beyond, and this will not be achievable without urgent investment in both areas.
  • We are pleased to see that Connecting Scotland has begun to address socio-economic digital inequality, and we would certainly support the continuation and enhancement of this programme.
  • However, far more significant investment will be needed to achieve infrastructure equality, as the slow progress of R100 has evidenced.
  • Orkney Islands Council's IT team has demonstrated that where there is a will, there is a way, and has delivered a remote working programme originally scheduled to take 2-3 years within the space of 2-3 months.
  • We would like to see a comparable acceleration in the national rollout of full fibre connectivity in order to support our students, workers and businesses to recover.
  • Such urgency requires the Scottish Government to use its procurement powers to take non-competitive action to achieve this.

Shetland Islands Council

  • Further to Shetland Islands Council's local Shetland Partnership Plan, the National Islands Plan supports the things that cannot be delivered at a local level and need national Government support.
  • Therefore, although we acknowledge the importance of engagement going forward, it does not replace the fact that the National Islands Plan is an important Scottish Government flagship policy and commitment that requires to be adequately resourced at the national level.
  • The National Islands Plan commits Scottish Government to working "with young people across all Scottish islands to ensure that they are able to contribute to the implementation of the Plan from an education perspective and to ensure that their voices are present". This objective is critical as we emerge from lockdown and seek to plan for the future.
  • At a local level, we have considered the 2020 #lockdownlowdown report, which 208 young Shetlanders participated in (almost 10% of the total survey respondents) and have supplemented that information with further survey work involving S4-6 locally. However, we are disappointed to note that the Young Islanders' Network has not been taken forward.
  • A failure to resource the Young Islanders Network is not a positive indication of Government commitment to National Islands Plan implementation and achieving the many positive outcome commitments it contains.



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