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‘Landmark’ islands bill debated in parliament

The islands bill will be debated at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Photo: Andrew Cowan/Scottish ParliamentThe Scottish Parliament. Photo: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

THE NEW Islands Bill is being debated for the first time in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon (8 February).

The bill, which came off the back of the Our Islands Our Future initiative by Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles councils, aims to create “sustainable growth and empowered communities” in island regions.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott previously said the bill needs to “undo the damage” of centralisation and guide policy-making away from a one-size-fits-all approach.

Islands minister Humza Yousaf said before the debte it is a “landmark piece of legislation for Scotland, enshrining the interests of our unique and diverse island communities within the legislative process.”

“It is designed to build islands awareness into decision making across the public sector, ensuring interests of island communities are firmly at the centre of future legislative, policy and service considerations,” he added.

“The bill builds on our work to enhance island communities and economies, such as our investment of over £1 billion in ferry services, £270 million in airport facilities across the Highlands and Islands – including over £60 million in the air discount scheme – as well as £5 million in the islands housing fund to deliver affordable homes.

“It also complements our wider policy agenda, which addresses island-specific challenges including depopulation, energy, housing, transport, digital, and supporting sustainable economic development.”

More to follow.