Scottish Independence Debate / Islands have a friend in government

Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael: 'I can deliver now'.

THE THREE Scottish islands councils can expect to make good progress in their attempts to gain more powers for their communities.

The council leaders of Shetland, Orkney and the western isles were in London on Monday to make their case to the Westminster government.

Newly appointed Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael said the islands now had a friend in government, adding that substantial progress could be made.

The islands delegation also met with the new fishing minister, George Eustice, who gave a commitment to visit Shetland in the near future.

They held further meetings with officials from the treasury about the Crown Estate, and discussed the renewables strike price with officials from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

The councils’ ‘Our islands – Our Future’ programme for more autonomy includes gaining control of local marine resources, renewable energy developments and public sector reform.

On Monday afternoon, Carmichael said: “I believe it is possible to make substantial progress in terms of what the isles councils are perusing, without legislation.


“There now needs to be a ‘nuts and bolts’ discussion between Whitehall and the three islands councils about the changes they want to see and how that can be achieved.

“I will be keeping a close eye on that. I have already spoken to the three islands councils about the role the Scotland Office will have in holding the ring and making sure that the necessary resources are being put into place so that the momentum is being maintained.”

He added that he regarded the Crown Estate as “unfinished business” and wanted to see the organisation engaging far more with local people so that communities could directly benefit from the development of marine renewable energies.

And, slamming the Scottish government, with whom the three islands councils are holding similar talks, the Scottish secretary said Holyrood was just making promises.

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“I am not really interested in future promises. This is something I can deliver now,” he said.

“The Scottish government say they will come up with some promise. Fine; I will be delighted if they do, but their promise will presumably be contingent on Scotland voting Yes in the independence referendum.

“I would hope that whatever we achieve here will be delivered regardless of the outcome of that vote.

“I am not going to bribe people for their vote in next September’s referendum.”

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