Holyrood set to create new islands law

A new law to help Scotland's islands is set to be passed at Holyrood.

Transport and Island Minister Humza Yousaf. Picture: PA Wire

MSPs will vote on the Islands (Scotland) Bill following a stage three debate.

The new law will mean government and public sector legislation and policies will have a duty to take the impact on the islands into consideration, known as island-proofing, and will also lead to the creation of a National Islands Plan.

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The Bill was proposed by the Our Islands Our Future campaign, carried out ahead of the Scottish independence referendum to demand more power for the islands.

However, some critics argue the Bill has been watered down from the campaign’s original intentions.

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Orkney Islands Council wants the bill to be strengthened to allow greater devolution of power to the islands and retrospective island proofing of laws and policy and MSPs from opposition parties have proposed changes to enable this.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Orkney Islands Council leader James Stockan said: “We believe the Bill could be much more ambitious than it was at Stage Two of this process.

“We want it to be genuinely empowering, so that it has a lasting and positive impact on the lives of people in Scotland’s island communities.”

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur believes the Scottish Government will back changes he will put forward to ensure law and policy are not just island-proofed in the future but this is also applied retrospectively, where requests from local authorities are approved by Ministers.

Mr McArthur said: “From the outset, I have made clear that ‘island proofing’ needs to be able to look back as well as forward.

“Too often in the past, a one-size-fits-all approach to making policy and laws has ignored the needs of island communities, like Orkney.”

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott wants changes made to ensure Shetland is accurately represented on any public authority maps, instead of being boxed-off in a non-geographically correct location.

Humza Yousaf said: “As Islands Minister I’ve been very privileged to have had the opportunity to help guide the Bill through Scotland’s Parliament.

“I’m very confident it will make a real and lasting impact to our island communities.”