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New islands group

SIC political leader Gary Robinson.

SIC leader Gary Robinson has welcomed the creation of a new Scottish Government islands group that will bring together six local authorities.

The “islands strategic group” will help to shape the future islands bill, which is set to be brought forward in the next 12 months, as well help to create a national islands plan.

Local authorities in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles have already spent the last couple of years making a case for more powers under the Our Islands Our Future project.

However, the new strategic group will also include representatives from Argyll and Bute, Highland and North Ayrshire.

Robinson said the project would act as the “successor” to the islands area ministerial working group.

“It’s going to be helpful as we work towards the national islands plan and indeed the islands bill,” he said.

Robinson, however, said the SIC will work with the government alongside Orkney and the Western Isles on developing an “islands deal”, which would be similar to the city deals already in place in Scotland designed to improve regional economies.

“There will be two pieces of work going on in tandem,” Robinson said. “One working towards the bill, and the other working for what an islands deal might look like.”

Islands minister Humza Yousaf said the new group will be “crucial” in forming the proposed islands bill.

“The group will also focus on the development of a national islands plan, which will ensure the government’s commitment to further empower the Scottish islands will be tailored specifically by those who will be most affected, taking into account the challenges and also the opportunities of island life,” he said.

“I’ve already had numerous positive conversations with council leaders who will be getting round the table to represent the interests of our many and varied island communities and look forward to further constructive discussions in the future.”