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Leaders agree ambitious plan

All hands together. Orkney Islands Council convener Steven Heddle, local government minister Derek Mackay, SIC leader Gary Robinson and Western Isles Council leader Angus Campbell after Thursday's meeting. Photo Scottish government

ISLAND council leaders and the Scottish government have agreed an “ambitious workplan” to devolve more powers to local authorities in the wake of a Yes vote in the independence referendum next year.

Thursday’s meeting in Edinburgh with local government minister Derek Mackay ended with an upbeat statement about plans to produce a prospectus outlining the opportunities facing island groups in an independent Scotland.

The working group discussed in some detail proposals to devolve the Crown Estate’s control of the seabed on Thursday.

Its next meeting in Stornoway in October will focus on energy, with renewables, transport and governance on the agenda for future meetings.

Shetland Islands Council leader Gary Robinson and chief executive Mark Boden attended Thursday’s meeting along with the leaders of Orkney and Western Isles councils.

Afterwards Mackay said the government had made it very clear in their Lerwick Declaration last month during the cabinet visit to Shetland that it was committed to the principle of local decision-making and subsidiarity.

“I’m therefore pleased that at the first meeting of the Island Areas Working Group we discussed an ambitious workplan to look at the potential for further devolution of powers for Scotland’s islands and the opportunities that independence could open up for our island communities, including energy, renewables and the Crown Estate,” he said.

“I look forward to developing this agenda in more detail and agreeing a prospectus for the future of the islands in the context of the referendum.”

Robinson added: “This is a welcome opportunity to begin a discussion with ministers on a wide range of issues which are at the heart of the islands’ economies. “It’s particularly important as we approach a time of constitutional change to explore all the options that may be available to us.”