THE UK government has this morning (Friday) launched its long awaited response to the Our Islands Our Future initiative.
The ten point plan for Orkney, Shetland and the western isles will embed the voice of the islands at the heart of the UK government according to Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael.
The Scottish government has pledged that island communities would be handed all net revenue from leasing the seabed around its coastlines should Scotland become an independent country.
The UK government’s ten-point plan for the islands include:
- Islands proofing: These are new arrangements to scrutinise UK Government policy and legislation to ensure they take account of islands priorities.
- Economic benefits: A new Islands Working Group will be supported by a dedicated position in the Scotland Office and have its agenda set by the islands,
- A new Oil and Gas Islands forum: The framework recognises the islands are vital to meeting the UK’s energy needs. The UK Government is committed to work with the islands councils to assist strategic decision-making on future priorities for the oil and gas industry.
- Renewable energy: The framework includes a firm UK Government commitment to the Renewable Energy Delivery Forum, focussed on getting transmission links to the islands.
- Social needs: The framework recognises the island groups face particular challenges in the areas of transport, postal services, digital connectivity and fuel poverty.
- Transport: This includes seeking an extension to the Air Discount Scheme and a commitment to consider fiscal measures to support transport connectivity with the island groups.
- Postal services: The UK Government is committed to working with retailers, consumer groups and enforcers to ensure parcel delivery charges to remote regions are fair and transparent, in line with the UK statement of principles for parcel deliveries.
- Digital connectivity is of great importance to local inhabitants and businesses on the islands, requiring subsidy from both the UK and Scottish Governments to overcome the geographical and commercial challenges in delivery of these services.
The UK Government is also committed to providing parity of minimum service level between the UK mainland and islands areas by delivering standard broadband of at least 2Mbps to all premises in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.
- Crown Estate: The framework also contains measures to strengthen the transparency and accountability of the Crown Estate.
- EU and representation on government bodies: A dedicated point of contact to offer advice and guidance to the islands within the UK Representation to the EU.
The framework is being launched in Stornoway on Friday morning. Full story with analysis and interviews will be available later today.
The 11-page framework for the Scottish islands document can be accessed here.