Islands deal is a step closer

OIOFAn ‘islands deal’ is a step closer this week, after progress was made in discussions between the Scottish Government and the three islands councils on their proposals for a deal which will look to enhance local democracy and achieve their full economic potential.

The meeting in Lerwick on Monday was the twelfth meeting of the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group (IAMWG) and the final one in the current round of meetings before the Scottish elections.

The meeting was chaired by Derek Mackay, Minister for Transport and Islands, with Marco Biagi, Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment, also attending for the Scottish Government.

The Ministers agreed to on-going dialogue with the Islands as they develop their proposals. The group also agreed that it would be important to have engagement from the UK Government as proposals develop.

There were also positive discussions on the potential for increasing local accountability for decisions on Crown Estate assets in the three council areas, ahead of a Scottish Bill on the future management framework for Crown Estate assets in Scotland after devolution.

Leader of Shetland Islands Council, Councillor Gary Robinson, speaking on behalf of the Our Islands Our Future (OIOF) campaign, said: “OIOF has worked steadily with both governments over the past two and a half years and has made good progress over that time on a wide range of issues. We look forward to continuing that engagement as we move into the next phase of our campaign.

“We will continue to contribute to the process of developing a deal for the Islands and welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to continuing dialogue on that critical issue. While this series of meetings has come to an end, the work we’ve started with government will continue on the issues we’ve identified through them.

“We have come a long way in a few years, and fully expect to see an Islands Bill come forward through the new parliament later this year which will strengthen our communities and put them at the forefront of Scottish life for the future.”