SCOTLAND’S islands have been promised more powers in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote in the Scottish independence referendum.
First Minister Alex Salmond outlined proposals for new legislation to “island-proof” Holyrood decisions, as well as increased control over revenues and greater representation in Europe, during a visit to Orkney College in Kirkwall today.
The Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland have been campaigning for greater autonomy from Edinburgh since last year, in a campaign dubbed “Our Islands, Our Future”.
The First Minister called the prospectus - entitled ‘Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities’ - “the most comprehensive package” of island reform ever proposed.
Mr Salmond said: “It recognises the unique contribution that island communities make to modern Scotland, and also the distinctive needs and priorities they have.
“Most of all, though, it recognises that Scotland’s islands have huge potential – a wealth of culture and history; stunning landscapes; massive renewable energy resources; and a host of successful businesses in sectors such as food and drink, life sciences and tourism.
“We are determined to work with the islands communities to unleash that potential and to create a sustainable and prosperous future.”
Steven Heddle, convener of Orkney Islands Council said: ”Over the past year we’ve taken a politically neutral stance in presenting the case for a stronger future for our islands.
“The Scottish Government has clearly been willing to consider, negotiate and respond positively to the arguments we’ve made.
“The detailed response to the campaign... establishes a framework for how our islands can be empowered and a benchmark for our engagement and relationship with government.“
Leader of Comhairlenan Eilean Siar, Angus Campbell, said: “This is a historic day for our island communities. When we launched Our Islands Our Future a year ago we could not have anticipated the amount of interest and discussion we were going to generate. This launch of the Scottish Government’s Prospectus is a product of those discussions and negotiations on a wide ranging list of subjects including the Crown Estate, Grid connections and the constitutional position of Island areas.
“Working closely with the Scottish Government, we have set out an agenda for the way forward for our Islands. The Scottish Government has now put forward the proposals in Empowering Island Communities which I warmly welcome. Of course, the work doesn’t stop here.
“Irrespective of the outcome of the Referendum in September there is much that can be achieved for Scotland’s islands and our on-going task, as always, will be to maximise the benefits for those who live in our Island communities.”