Scottish islands call for extra investment

Rothesay on the Isle of Bute.
Rothesay on the Isle of Bute.
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Business leaders on Scotland’s islands have called for more to be done to improve infrastructure and encourage young people to stay in the communities.

A survey of 275 island firms by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found 88 per cent said they face challenges that mainland businesses do not.

Priorities identified were encouraging young people to stay and young families to move in, improve local transport infrastructure and superfast broadband access, more affordable housing and better facilities for tourists.

Ahead of planned legislation to give island authorities new powers, FSB has passed the survey results to Holyrood’s rural economy committee in a call for action.

David Richardson, the FSB’s development manager for the Highlands and Islands, said: “The prosperity of a local place is intertwined with the ongoing success of its local business community.

“While this rings true across the country, it is particularly the case for Scotland’s island communities.

“Our survey work shows, perhaps unsurprisingly, that addressing shortfalls in digital and transport infrastructure is a top priority for island firms. But – ahead of these problems – local businesses want to play a role in developing sustainable island communities. In our view, only with a successful local private sector can our islands succeed.”

Survey results were gathered from islands including Shetland, Orkney, Skye, Bute and Arran.

The FSB also highlighted census data showing that 13 per cent of Scottish island residents work for themselves, compared to a national average of 7 per cent.

Mr Richardson added: “Micro businesses and the self-employed are vitally important to island economies. But our research shows that one in five islands business owners has considered moving to the mainland.

“To state the obvious, the long-term success of island communities require their local private sectors to thrive, to power job creation, local growth and to retain and attract younger residents.”

Scottish Labour’s rural affairs spokeswoman Rhoda Grant said: “The survey highlights the problems that many small businesses face in the island community.

“Far too often, small businesses in rural and island communities are unable to compete on a level playing field with businesses on the mainland. It is vital that we see government investment in high-speed broadband and transport infrastructure to allow Scotland’s islands to thrive.”