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).


1 Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, section 2(1) provides the following definition: “island” means a naturally formed area of land which is— “(a) surrounded on all sides by the sea (ignoring artificial structures such as bridges), and (b) above water at high tide.”

2 St Kilda is just one example of an uninhabited island that has a very strong cultural heritage dimension for Scotland.

3 Our Islands, Our Future, Joint Position Statement. Available at:

4 Scottish Parliament, Official Report, Island Areas Ministerial Working Group, Prospectus, Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities, June 2014.

5 UK Government and the three Scottish Island Councils, Framework for the Islands, 2014:

6 Islands (Scotland) Act, section 3(2).

7 Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, section 3(3).

8 Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, section 3(5).

9 Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, section 4 (1) (a).

10 Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, section 4(1) (b).

11 Methodologies used in the consultation and

12 Reports from all the islands visited are available here:

13 Island communities have benefited from the EU Cohesion Policy and its related funds: the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). The goal of the policy and of the funds was to ‘reduc[e] disparities between the various regions and the backwardness of the least-favoured regions.’ The Lisbon Treaty went one step further and maintained that “cohesion policy should also promote more balanced, more sustainable ‘territorial development’”. Membership of the EU has also promoted long-term national spatial planning and creating growth in multiple regions based on their inherent strengths. See European Commission, European Spatial Development Perspective, 1999:


15 The First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership reported in December 2018 and recommended, inter alia, the development of a new statutory human rights framework for Scotland. This proposed legislation would, for the first time, bring internationally recognised human rights into domestic law – including economic, social, cultural and environmental rights covering areas such as education, health, housing, food and cultural rights. The Advisory Group’s report can be found here: In June 2019, the Scottish Government announced that the Advisory Group’s recommendations will be taken forward by a new national task force.

16 Scotland and the SDGS.

17 The European Commission defines blue economy as all economic activities related to oceans, seas and coasts.

18 Government’s Climate Change Plan or cross reference to relevant chapters.

19 Community Empowerment Act and the ongoing Local Governance Review or cross reference to relevant chapters.

20 2016-based subnational population projections for Scottish areas

21 The Islands Growth Deal has been developed by Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles following extensive consultation across a wide range of stakeholders and with the aim of driving inclusive and sustainable economic growth. It is important that the Plan and the Islands Growth Deal be implemented in a mutually supportive manner and of a sufficient scale of ambition and value to deliver real differences in order to retain and attract talent to the islands to which the Islands Deal applies.

22 Some island communities face the challenge of residents currently being unable to travel to and from Scotland’s cities in the same day while undertaking a day’s work. Research has shown that the minimum income that households require for an acceptable standard of living in Scotland’s island communities is well above that required in the rest of the UK, and in many cases higher than in other areas of rural Scotland. The distribution of deprivation is also different in rural areas. Factors resulting in additional costs for households in island communities compared to the rest of the UK include longer commuting distances compounded by higher fuel prices; the additional cost of occasional trips to the mainland; additional ferry/air costs for inter-island travel. Longer commutes to work combined with more expensive fuel typically adds £30 to £40 per costs when compared to rural England. When people need to travel between islands to access work, ferry trips can incur additional costs. Island communities can also face additional freight costs, such as to get goods to market or importing energy sources or building materials and labour. Additional charges for deliveries can be a challenge.

23 Scottish Government, National Planning Framework 3, June 2014:

24 The draft NTS is built around a strategic framework which sets our vision statement: We will have a sustainable, inclusive and accessible transport system helping to deliver a healthier, fairer and more prosperous Scotland for communities and visitors. This vision is underpinned by four themes: Promotes Equality; Takes Climate Action; Helps our Economy Prosper; and Improves our Health and Wellbeing. Building on this collaborative approach, 14 policies, which flow from the four themes, have been developed and informed by engagement with stakeholders. Following the NTS consultation, Transport Scotland will share their findings, in relation to island communities, with us and use the information provided to develop a Delivery Plan which will seek to address the different Transport challenges faced across Scotland different areas and regions. This Delivery will be published alongside the NTS at the end of this year.

25 STPR2 will follow Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG). It will be evidence-based, objective-led, transport appraisal which will address transport problems in achieving the NTS outcomes and consider what transport investment is required to achieve them. Appraising the options which best perform against objectives and assessment criteria. Stakeholder consultation is also part of the evidence base. This robust process follows the principles of the Scottish Public Finance Manual and HM Treasury Green Book for Government spend. Therefore, it is deemed that STPR2 is the most appropriate route to determine strategic transport investments for our island communities. STPR2 will also inform Transport Scotland’s Ferries Plan 2, with respect to strategic investment.




29 Scottish Parliament, Planning (Scotland) Act 2019:

30 The Scottish Government’s flagship websites provide information about legislation, policy and news ( and guidance and signposting to government and public sector transactional services ( These products are tested with users across Scotland to ensure a consistent user experience regardless of where a user is located. Testing of these and other digital products is viewable remotely, to ensure that staff working in the central belt are able to engage with the experiences of users located in the islands and other rural locations. However, if islands experience poor digital connectivity these efforts to communicate properly with remote communities will prove unsuccessful.

31 Reaching 100% programme is striving to extend the availability of Next Generation Access broadband infrastructure to meet the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver superfast broadband access to 100% of premises in Scotland by 2021.


33 The First Minister launched Forging Scotland’s Digital Future with 5G – our 5G Strategy – on 26 August 2019. The Strategy is available at

34 In its December 2018 report, the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership explicitly recognised the importance of environmental rights, alongside civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Its recommendations will now be taken forward by a National Taskforce. The full report can be found at:

35 Map extracted from Energy Saving Trust database

36 Scottish Government, Scottish Planning Policy, 2014:

37 Please see Annex A of the National Islands Plan

38 Lisbon Treaty, art. 174: “In order to promote its overall harmonious development, the Union shall develop and pursue its actions leading to the strengthening of its economic, social and territorial cohesion. In particular, the Union shall aim at reducing disparities between the levels of development of the various regions and the backwardness of the least favoured regions. Among the regions concerned, particular attention shall be paid to rural areas, areas affected by industrial transition, and regions which suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps such as the northernmost regions with very low population density and island, cross-border and mountain regions.” Emphasis added.

39 Arctic Framework.




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