The National Plan for Scotland's Islands

The National Islands Plan provides a framework for action in order to meaningfully improve outcomes for island communities. This replaces the proposed plan published in October 2019.

Environmental Wellbeing and Biosecurity

The coastal, marine, and inland ecosystems of islands provide valuable natural assets and cultural services to island residents and the general population of Scotland. They are also important draws for tourism with many visitors to Scotland citing scenery and landscape as a major factor influencing their decision to visit.

Many of Scotland’s islands have a strong traditional dependence on marine and coastal biodiversity for their food, industry, and transport. With increasing environmental pressures, island systems face serious challenges both in the immediate and near future. However, islanders positively recognise and value the importance of protecting these natural assets. Many islanders emphasised the islands’ unique and beautiful environments, landscapes and scenery during our consultation.

Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) works on projects which promote sustainable inshore fisheries and aquaculture practices and regulation.  COAST’s mission is to protect and restore a diverse, abundant and beautiful marine environment for everyone in Arran, the Clyde and Scotland.

The environment on islands is also often linked to social and cultural benefits with respondents to the consultation frequently emphasising the peace and quiet, and the relaxed way of life on their island. In this context, the islands are regarded as good places to live and raise children.

“When I’m away I miss nature. The lands are alive. If you recognise their sentient glow, you appreciate your place of origin all the more.”
(Consultation participant, Hoy)

Environment is intrinsic to the economic wellbeing of island communities. Climate change and environmental context could be pivotal in transitioning the economy and creating value-added, sustainable jobs. The implementation of the Plan will build on, and align with, where possible, existing green policies and strategies, such as the 2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity, which incorporates a strategy for the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity in Scotland, Scotland’s National Peatland Plan, Scotland’s Circular Economy Strategy and our ambitious waste and recycling targets.

SG Policy - Scotland is the first nation in the UK to announce proposals for a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for single-use drinks containers. The scheme includes a broad range of materials and a target return rate of 90 per cent. Waste disposal, control and lack of recycling facilities in some areas featured highly in discussions on the environment.

“Waste disposal is under budgeted/resourced and runs counter to a Government which wants to suggest it is up ahead of the curve on environmental issues.”
(Consultation participant, Tiree)

We will also protect and promote all designated sites. Environmental wellbeing can be disrupted if attention is not given to biosecurity. Scotland’s islands are fragile ecosystems of disproportionately high importance for wildlife in the UK and European context, that are extremely susceptible to invasive non-native species. From a marine perspective, the Plan will build on, and align with, where possible, the National Marine Plan that calls for clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse seas managed to meet the long-term needs of nature and people. In other areas, Scottish Natural Heritage has undertaken successful projects to support eradication of black rats on the Shiant Islands and to remove stoats from Orkney islands to protect sensitive populations of native wildlife. The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy’s Non-Native Species Action Group has undertaken some work to identify species that pose a particularly high risk to island communities and will continue to develop work to increase public information around minimising invasive species movements along these pathways.

It is also crucial that the interdependencies between social and economic development and environmental wellbeing are realised to ensure sustainable environmental protection. A healthy environment is also essential to wellbeing and to Scotland’s ability to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.[25] While transport, digital connectivity and housing may appear to have a stronger transformational role, if an island cannot deal with its waste in a sustainable manner, or its waters become polluted, fewer people will want to live, move to, or visit the island. Additionally, all of these issues require local community input in order to ensure inclusiveness and they need to be effectively integrated with the previously mentioned sectors to ensure sustainability.

Strategic Objective 8

To improve and promote environmental wellbeing and deal with biosecurity we will:

  • Protect island biodiversity.
  • Address biosecurity in a holistic and integrated manner as a means not only to contribute to environmental wellbeing, but also to contribute to sustainable economic development on Scottish islands.
  • Establish an islands forum, through Zero Waste Scotland, as part of the implementation of the Deposit Return Scheme, to ensure that key considerations for islands (and rural communities more generally) are reflected. This Forum will support, not only, input into our legislative plans for the scheme but also ensure that key considerations for islands communities are integrated into the implementation planning process.
  • Work with island communities to explore how they can contribute to the circular economy through small-scale pilots for example supporting local food production.
  • Continue and refresh the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, which has benefited island communities through provision of infrastructure to mitigate the impact of increased tourism benefitting islands’ communities and environment.
  • Develop work with the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy’s Non-Native Species Action Group to increase public information around minimising particularly high-risk invasive species movements on islands. 
  • Work with island partners to design solutions that address climate change through nature based solutions with multiple benefits including, for example the protection and restoration of peatlands and salt marshes.



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