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Labour pledge devolved powers for Scottish islands

Margaret Curran met Scottish island leaders at Westminster. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Margaret Curran met Scottish island leaders at Westminster. Picture: Ian Georgeson

More powers will be devolved to island communities if Labour wins the next general election, shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran has pledged.

Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles councillors have been campaigning to win additional responsibilities, whatever the result of the independence referendum, with their “our islands, our future” campaign.

Norman MacDonald, the leader of Western Isles Council, Steven Heddle, leader of Orkney Islands Council, and Gary Robinson, their counterpart at Shetland Islands Council, have held talks with Ms Curran at Westminster.

Following the meeting, Ms Curran said Labour would give the island authorities more powers over economic development and renewable energy.

The Labour MP said: “The leaders of our island councils have made a strong case for why their communities should have more control over the decisions that affect their lives. Devolution was never intended to concentrate power in Edinburgh - we need more power passed to communities across Scotland.

“Labour would put more power in the hands of Scotland’s island communities. This will include power to develop renewable energy resources, to tackle unemployment, to take more control of economic development and to give the maximum possible power over the Crown Estates.”

She also said Labour would hold formal meetings with the three island council leaders twice a year if the party was returned to power in the 2015 general election.

Ms Curran said: “The islands may be remote but they shouldn’t be remote from the business of the UK Government. Labour would maintain the Islands Desk in the Scotland Office and we would also hold formal meetings twice a year with the leaders of the three island councils.”

The council leaders met UK Government ministers, including Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, earlier this week.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the Lerwick Declaration made by First Minister Alex Salmond during a visit to Shetland last July had “confirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to the principles of local decision-making and subsidiarity”.

She added: “The Island Areas Ministerial Working Group, chaired by Local Government Minister Derek Mackay, recently met for the fifth time in Stornoway. The final meeting of the group is scheduled for Kirkwall in June, where it is expected to finalise discussions and reach an agreement on a prospectus for the islands that will provide the basis for an Islands Act following independence.”

SEE ALSO

Island councils seek greater power over affairs

Brian Wilson: Islands’ power a local issue

 

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