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SIC in devolution talks

Gary Robinson with the UK government's Framework for the Islands document in August.

SIC LEADER Gary Robinson is among those due to meet Lord Smith on Friday to discuss how further powers for Scotland could be used to strengthen communities.

Lord Smith has been tasked with coming up with proposals for greater devolution from London to Edinburgh in the wake of September’s No vote in the Scottish independence referendum.

Robinson, who fronted Shetland’s role in the three-way Our Islands Our Future campaign with Orkney and the Western Isles, is part of a delegation from COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) making the case.

Among possible measures to be devolved to the islands could be control over, and revenue from, the seabed around Shetland.

SNP local government minister Derek Mackay said this week that he hoped the Crown Estate’s powers over seabed revenue and rights will be handed to Holyrood so it can pass them on to local communities.

Speaking ahead of Friday’s meeting, COSLA president David O’Neill said: “I’m delighted that Lord Smith has rightly recognised that Scottish local government, as an elected sphere of government in Scotland, is a player in this debate and has agreed to come to COSLA’s convention to hear at first hand the vital role that a strong local democracy can play in his commission’s work.

“It was local people that electrified the debate about Scotland’s constitutional future and proved once and for all that they care passionately about the issues that affect them, their families, and their communities. There is now an historic opportunity to make sure that becomes the new standard for democracy in Scotland.”

O’Neil added: “Across the political spectrum, there is now a growing consensus that it is time to think about not just the powers that come to Scotland, but how power is used to benefit Scotland’s communities.

“Whatever new powers are agreed for Scotland, all of the evidence tells us that taking change forward from the top down is likely to weaken democracy, and under-deliver for communities.

“That is why there has never been a better time for the Smith Commission to deliver a settlement in which new powers are not simply tacked onto today’s centralised framework, but instead empower local people in Scotland to address the challenges and opportunities they face.”