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).

Implementation and Measurement of the National Islands Plan

For the Plan to lead to meaningful, positive and sustainable change there needs to be a gradual progress of ownership, monitoring and accountability. First, island communities need to feel that the Plan reflects their voices and their vision. Island communities need to be made aware of the content of the Plan and be supported to take ownership of it.

Secondly, in order to ensure that the Plan is inclusive, island communities need to be kept informed of progress towards its delivery. The statutory provisions in the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 provide for annual reports on progress by Scottish Ministers, and a review every five years – potentially leading to its revision.

Thirdly, accountability is key to a fair Plan. Island communities need to be able to challenge Scottish Government if they feel that implementation of the Plan is lagging or no action is being taken altogether.

However, ownership, monitoring and accountability are just one important part of the implementation of the Plan. Another crucial part will be to develop an Implementation Strategy that addresses each of the 13 Strategic Objectives and the 104 commitments listed in the Plan. One key aspect of this Implementation Strategy will be the development of indicators.

In fact, as provided for in the Act itself, consideration has to be given to what would be appropriate to use for the purpose of measuring (whether quantitatively or qualitatively) the extent to which outcomes for island communities identified in the Plan are improved. We have considered this and decided that it would be appropriate to use indicators developed on the basis of the National Performance Framework and the Sustainable Development Goals as a means to demonstrate progress in implementing and delivering the Strategic Objectives and in meeting the commitments provided in the Plan.

Work to fully develop appropriate indicators is ongoing and the Implementation Strategy will include clear and measurable indicators for each Strategic Objective in order to set a path for implementation of the Plan. Some of the commitments will be achieved in the short to medium term, whilst others will require a longer period for delivery – some even beyond the lifespan of the Plan. Indicators will accompany the actions identified to deliver the objectives outlined in the Plan – with clear timescales, budgets and partners identified.

The development of indicators to measure the extent to which outcomes for island communities identified in the Plan are improved are building on the outcomes and indicators provided for in the National Performance Framework, and also on good practices stemming from the development of indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals at a global level. In particular, indicators are being developed for each outcome and objective in collaboration with key stakeholders and delivery partners. Once co-developed, indicators will be presented for comments and feedback to specific island stakeholders after which the indicator will be tailored and finalised. This co-production exercise is being undertaken having in mind the uniqueness of each island in Scotland, and the need to deliver on the commitments as soon as possible in some cases.

Robust indicators require good data. In fact, the latter is vital to underpin meaningful monitoring of progress on outcomes for our island communities. Currently, there is a lack of robust disaggregated socio-economic data at the island level, particularly publishable data.

Avoid tick-box measurement which only services the tickers.
(Consultation participant, Arran)

Better local data is key to understanding the specific challenges facing island communities, both in terms of demographics and economic development. This is important in assessing the effectiveness of policy measures taken so far to address these challenges; informing where more targeted interventions may be required; and responding to the evolving needs of island communities.

The Scottish Government alone is not in a position to deliver all of the commitments that will improve outcomes for our island communities. We will continue to reach out and work with island leaders and a wide range of relevant stakeholders in the development of the Implementation Strategy of the Plan – with particular attention given to local authorities and their respective local public services.

The development of the Implementation Strategy will commence immediately upon the formal adoption of the Plan by Parliament. In the first phase, we will undertake a stakeholder mapping exercise for each of the Plan’s outcome areas, specific Strategic Objectives and commitments. In the second phase, we will organise workshops, where possible, to discuss and agree the actions linked to each objective followed by tailored work aimed at the development of indicators capable of effectively measuring progress in meeting that specific objective. The third phase will include visits to island communities who will act as focus groups for the actions and the indicators suggested. Nonetheless, representatives from island communities will also be included in the earlier phases of the development of the Implementation Strategy and on the new National Islands Plan Governance Group. The fourth and final phase will be the publication of the Implementation Strategy, by Spring 2020 that will complement the National Islands Plan approved by Parliament.

Listen to the people in EACH community. No two island communities are the same, even within the same island group. We often have the best solution to our own unique problems, but we MUST have legislation and funding to allow us to help ourselves.
(Consultation participant Sanday, Orkney)”

Strategic Objective 13

To support effective implementation of the National Islands Plan

In order to support effective implementation of the Plan, and better understand the challenges faced by island communities the Scottish Government will:

  • Establish a robust process to ensure the timely publication of a detailed Implementation Strategy setting out clear actions with defined responsibilities for action and timescales to support the delivery of the National Islands Plan;
  • Develop indicators applicable to each Strategic Objective in collaboration with Scottish Government agencies, local authorities, island communities and relevant island socio-economic actors based on the SMART criteria and building on the National Performance Framework and Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Host a series of island-based focus groups workshops, to discuss and agree the specific actions linked to each of the 13 Strategic Objectives in the Plan;
  • Review the availability, usefulness of, and the wider barriers to, island level data both at an individual island level, groups of islands and consider the creation of a “Scottish Islands” data level in order to better understand the challenges faced by island communities;
  • Create a Young Islanders Network constituted by young people from all Scottish islands that will have a consultative role in the implementation of the National Islands Plan to ensure that the delivery of the Plan fully considers the interests and priorities of young people;
  • Establish a National Islands Plan Governance Group to ensure close monitoring of the Implementation Strategy. This group will oversee the delivery of the National Islands Plan and feedback on progress to the Islands Strategic Group and other interested parties; and
  • Work with island communities to ensure that the Plan is widely promoted and understood by all sectors of society.



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