Publication - Strategy/plan

Scotland's islands: proposed national plan

Published: 3 Oct 2019

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).

Scotland's islands: proposed national plan
A Fair, Integrated, Green and Inclusive Plan

A Fair, Integrated, Green and Inclusive Plan

Our National Islands Plan is based on the principles that it is fair, integrated, green and inclusive.

The principles of fair, integrated, green and inclusive stem from the consultation and underpin the Plan and its implementation by guiding Scottish Government and all relevant stakeholders in meeting its ultimate objective – which is to improve outcomes for island communities.

Fair

Fairness reflects our commitment to equality and human rights. The Plan recognises that every member of society has a right to live with dignity and to enjoy high quality public services wherever they live. That commitment is now an explicit National Outcome within Scotland’s refreshed National Performance Framework.

We respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination.[14]

The challenges faced by island communities are shared with much of rural Scotland, and often have similarities with other communities that suffer disadvantage, for example in accessing public services or high quality employment. However, the consequences of geography (including higher costs and environmental factors) can create particular problems for island communities and people have felt abandoned and disadvantaged by central-based governance systems. The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 was the first step in remedying the challenges felt by island communities. However, the Plan and its supporting Implementation Strategy will go a step further in this direction through a place-based approach aimed at working towards fairness across the whole of Scotland.

Compliance with Scotland’s human rights obligations is a central component of that approach. The geographic, demographic, socio-economic, cultural and other particularities of the Scottish islands mean that many issues of significance to island communities are of such a fundamental nature that they are likely to interact with a range of human rights. For example, the transportation of people and goods to and from the islands, or issues related to digital connectivity, may have a direct impact on the ability of individuals to access health, education, work, and to achieve an adequate standard of living for 21st century lifestyles. Issues with regard to access to affordable housing and land may impact on the right to adequate housing, family and private life and the right to food, and challenges of this nature may, in turn, be further compounded by the effects of fuel poverty and extreme fuel poverty.

By taking a human rights approach for all islanders – including young people, the Plan aligns with ongoing policy developments in Scotland in this field.[15] The practical value of a human rights approach includes the potential it offers to support island communities and deliver greater empowerment – not just across the public sector, but also in relation to private sector provision of services of a public or quasi-public nature.

A fair Plan will strive towards equality across Scotland and its human rights approach will support greater accountability and help ensure that rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.

Integrated

Integration and sustainability are not only about bringing together environmental, social and economic considerations into policy. It is also about moving away from the risks of governing in silos and embracing an integrated approach to policy. The Scottish Government has adopted the Place Principle which will enable a more joined-up and collaborative approach to services, land and building to maximise the impact of collective energy and resources to deliver the outcomes on the National Performance Framework. The Plan and its implementation takes sustainability forward by promoting joined-up services based on an integrated and holistic approach to policy that captures economic, social and environmental considerations.

This supports what we heard in the consultation where islanders clearly referred to the way society operates on an island as integrated. No single aspect, be it transport, housing or health operates in isolation. They are all reliant on one another and need to work together to achieve the best possible outcomes. They also need to be resilient to disruption, and able to cope with and recover from emergencies. Indeed, the Place Standard has already been used effectively by island communities to assess and plan improvements across a range of infrastructure and services.

In some cases, when one aspect of island life starts improving, a ripple effect is created and can have transformational effects. For example, improving housing simultaneously supports economic development by providing affordable accommodation for the island workforce and helps reverse depopulation. These kind of interdependencies on outcomes already feature as part of the decision-making process around the creation of Local Development Plans which are prepared by the relevant planning authority for the island with the opportunity for significant input from communities.

A focus on sustainability in the Plan also aligns with Scotland’s global leadership when it comes to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.[16]

An integrated Plan will promote joined-up services based on a cohesive, place-based and holistic approach to policy and will build economic, social and environmental considerations in an integrated approach to island policy.

Green

A green Plan is not just about protecting our beautiful islands, their biodiversity and dealing efficiently with biosecurity. A green Plan is about focusing not only on the challenges, but also on the opportunities that Scotland’s islands have because of their environment and natural resources and assets. Our islands have a plethora of outstanding natural resources, from unique ecosystems such as machair – which is one of the rarest habitats in Europe, to powerful winds and tides. The Plan and its implementation provides an opportunity to harness the potential of a green and blue economy[17] in times of climate emergency.

A green Plan recognises the concerns of people on the islands that we met during the consultation. It talks in particular to those people living on islands who understand, probably better than others due to the threat it poses to them, the dangers of climate change. At the same time, a green Plan aligns with Scotland as a global leader in its wider efforts to tackle climate change. Not only will islands play their role in the Government’s Climate Change ambition to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045,[18] the Plan will enable islands to become hubs of innovation when it comes to renewables and electricity generation. Islands will also lead the way in terms of adaptation by relying often on good governance and management of land and biodiversity.

A green Plan will harness and unleash the potential of a green and blue economy in times of climate emergency.

Inclusive

An inclusive Plan is one where island communities feel that they can have a say in decisions that directly affect them. It was clear from the consultation that islanders feel that this is often not the case, and that decisions are regularly taken by institutions that do not fully understand the reality of life on the island. The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 and the provisions therein, (like the obligation to undertake island communities impact assessments), are the first step in addressing islanders’ concerns. The Plan and its implementation also have an important role to play in promoting genuine community empowerment by ensuring that the needs of affected communities are fully taken into account in decision-making, as close as possible to where the effects of such decisions will be felt.

Therefore, an inclusive Plan responds to a clear demand stemming from the consultation. It will also align with ongoing efforts that include the implementation of the relevant parts of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and the ongoing Local Governance Review,[19] which also aim to enable a better balance of power, responsibilities and resources between national and local government, and with communities.

An inclusive Plan will promote genuine community empowerment at the local level enabling decisions to be taken as close as possible to where their impact will be felt.

A fair Plan will strive towards equality across Scotland and its human rights approach will support greater accountability and help ensure that rights are respected, protected and fulfilled;

An integrated Plan will promote joined-up services based on a cohesive, place-based and holistic approach to policy and will build economic, social and environmental considerations in an integrated approach to island policy;

A green Plan will harness and unleash the potential of a green and blue economy in times of climate emergency; and

An inclusive Plan will promote genuine community empowerment at the local level enabling decisions to be taken as close as possible to where their impact will be felt.


Contact

Email: Don.Morrison@gov.scot