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Island innovation zones

Islands minister Derek Mackay says the case must be made for island innovation zones.

ISLANDS minister Derek Mackay has stressed a strong case must be made before Shetland, Orkney and the western isles are allowed to create island innovation zones.

Western isles leader Angus Campbell led the call for island innovation zones to be created at the 11th meeting of the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group held in Edinburgh on Thursday.

The zones, similar to those created outside large mainland population centres, would provide incentives to help offset the additional cost of operating in the islands.

Mackay, who chaired Thursday’s meeting, said he welcomed the idea of innovation zones in the isles in principle.

However he said it was “crucial” to assess the “genuine strengths and real potential” of such zones.

“I have, therefore, asked that the councils engage with Highlands and Islands Enterprise in order to set out in further detail the potential of any such zone,” he said.

Shetland Islands Council chief executive Mark Boden, who attended the meeting, said there was an emphasis placed on the cost of transport, which was not an issue with mainland innovation zones.

SIC development manager Douglas Irvine added that the discussions were at a very early stage, but he imagined superfast broadband would be an essential ingredient in any such zone.

He also identified the creative industries as an area where there was growth potential for such areas.

Meanwhile Mackay stressed the importance of the current consultation on devolving power to the islands and urged people to contribute before it closes on 23 December.

Details of the consultation can be found here.

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