Scotland's islands: proposed national plan

The proposed National Islands Plan provides a framework for action in order to meaningfully improve outcomes for island communities. It was replaced by the final National Islands Plan (published 27 December 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 over 50% of 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 to 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, with 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%. 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 Govt 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.

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 Scotland’s ability to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.[34] 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 that they effectively integrated with the previously mentioned sectors to ensure sustainability.

Strategic Objective 8

To improve and promote environmental wellbeing and deal with biosecurity

In order to improve and promote environmental wellbeing, and deal with biosecurity the Scottish Government 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; and
  • Continue and refresh the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, which has benefited island communities through provision of infrastructure to mitigate impact of increased tourism benefitting islands’ communities and environment.



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