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Politics / Wishart ‘disappointed’ by timeline for island impact assessments

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart. Photo: Shetland News

A REQUIREMENT for an impact assessment to be carried out on new policies and strategies which could affect island communities is only set to be enacted in late December – over two years after the legislation came into force.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said “while it’s understandable that resources have been prioritised for the Covid-19 response, it’s disappointing that these important parts of the Islands Act have not yet come into force”.

The Scottish Government’s Islands Act came into force back in 2018 and it included provision of island community impact assessments.

These assessments should assess the extent to which policies, strategies or services can be “developed or delivered in such a manner as to improve or mitigate, for island communities, the outcomes resulting from it”.

The law also allows local authorities to request a retrospective islands impact assessment on existing legislation or national strategies.

In a parliamentary question Wishart recently asked when the sections on impact assessments would come into force.

Islands minister Paul Wheelhouse said that activity on this matter had been put on hold due to the response to Covid-19.

However, the work was “re-prioritised” in late May.

Wheelhouse said a section of the act around reviews of decisions relating to impact assessments needs to be in place first, saying this is scheduled to come into force on 23 December.

“This date does remain subject to any further urgent legislative work that may be required as a result of Covid-19 and EU exit,” he added.

In response, Wishart said that “work on the regulations must remain a government priority so they come into force by the end of the year”.

“Island communities have been waiting over two years since the Islands Bill was passed for island community impact assessment to be required for any planned policy that will have a significant impact on the community,” she said.

“More so, the opportunity to request a retrospective communities impact assessment into policies that are already in place.

“When done right, and when island views are properly taken into account, impact assessments must have the potential to stop or reverse damaging plans.”

The Lib Dem MSP previously said the parking charge imposed at Sumburgh Airport by government-owned HIAL was one decision which could be challenged through a retrospective islands impact assessment.

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