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Scottish Independence Debate / Labour would offer islands more powers

Pictured at Westminster today, from left to right: Comhairle nan Eilean Siar convener Norman MacDonald, Orkney Islands Council convener Steven Heddle, Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran, SIC leader Gary Robinson, Labour MP and Scottish affairs committee chairman Ian Davidson.

THE LABOUR party has pledged to devolve more power to Scotland’s three island groups following talks with council leaders in London on Wednesday.

Speaking after meeting Shetland Islands Council leader Gary Robinson and his Orkney and Western Isles counterparts, Labour MP Margaret Curran said the three leaders had made “a strong case for why their communities should have more control over the decisions that affect their lives”.

Labour’s offer follows attempts to woo the three island councils from the Tory-Lib Dem coalition at Westminster and the SNP government at Holyrood.

The Our Islands Our Future campaign between the three islands was designed to take advantage of the constitutional upheaval prompted by this September’s Scottish independence referendum.

The island communities hope to secure greater autonomy, though their demands fall far short of outright independence, irrespective of the referendum’s outcome.

Robinson and his Orkney and Western Isles colleagues have spent three days at Westminster meeting a range of government ministers and senior civil servants for talks about gaining more powers.

Curran said: “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.”

Curran also announced that a future Labour government at UK level would maintain an islands desk in the Scotland Office and would also hold twice yearly summits with island local authority leaders.

“The islands may be remote, but they shouldn’t be remote from the business of the UK government,” she said.