Voice of the islands heard as Committee gathers evidence in Orkney
The Leader of Orkney Islands Council has welcomed the opportunity to put the case to MSPs for measures that will make a difference to the lives of people in island communities.
Councillor James Stockan was one of a number of representatives of the Council to take part in an evidence gathering session of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.
The Committee met in public at the Orkney Theatre on Monday evening (2 October) to gather views from local people and organisations as it considers the potential impact of the Scottish Government’s Islands (Scotland) Bill.
The Bill has comes about as a direct result of the Our Islands Our Future campaign, which was initiated by the councils in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.
Representatives of Shetland Islands Council joined their Orkney counterparts in giving evidence on ways to support, develop and protect island communities.
“This was an important stage in the development of the Islands Bill,” said Councillor Stockan.
“It meant we could share our knowledge and experience of living and working in the Northern Isles, ensuring that the MSPs on the Committee have a clear understanding of our islands’ perspective as they scrutinise the measures contained in the Bill.
“The Bill covers important matters such as a requirement to make sure new policies and legislation do not disadvantage island communities, marine licensing for coastal waters, and the development of a national islands plan.
“Our aim is to make sure that this new legislation has a lasting and positive impact on the lives of people in communities like ours. We welcomed the opportunity to put forward an ‘island voice’ – and the Committee members’ interest in what we had to say.”
Evidence was also given by former Convener Councillor Steven Heddle and Council solicitor Paul Maxton.
Councillor Heddle said: "While welcoming the Bill, we feel it could go further to empower the islands by recognising the uniqueness of the Islands Councils, and putting in place enabling powers to allow us to respond innovatively to issues arising from island proofing.
“Those measures combined with a means to enable community benefit from major development in our areas, alongside the Crown Estate revenues from our waters, would ensure the Bill would improve outcomes for our islanders as intended. We were pleased that our arguments were received positively by the committee."
The Shetland representatives at the session were SIC Convener Councillor Malcolm Bell and Chief Executive Mark Boden.
The Committee also undertook a range of fact-finding visits, including meetings at the European Marine Energy Centre and the Birsay Development Trust.
The Council's written submission to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee is available from the 'Related Downloads' section of this page.