The Islands (Scotland) Bill 2017

arran view to south east brodick
                                                                       Arran view to Brodick (c) COAST

The Islands (Scotland) Bill was introduced by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing MSP, on 9 June 2017.

In July of 2013, then First Minister, Alex Salmond delivered what became known as the Lerwick Declaration – which stated that a ministerial working group would examine the prospect of decentralising power to Shetland Council, Orkney Council, and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (the Western Isles Council). In the lead-up to this the “Our Islands-Our Future” strategy had been launched by the leaders of these three island councils—calling for greater autonomy for Scotland’s islands. The movement was designed off the back of the Scottish independence referendum, though it took a neutral position on Scottish independence.

Subsequent to the Lerwick Declaration the `Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities’ prospectus was published in June 2014 and committed the Scottish Government to the principles of subsidiarity and enhanced powers for Scotland’s islands. The Bill is not only relevant to the above Councils however, although its introduction has been pioneered by them, it covers all inhabited islands which brings in three other Councils – Argyll and Bute (which has 23 inhabited islands); Highland; and North Ayrshire.

This intent was complemented further by the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, which, when fully rolled out, will enable communities to be more involved in local decision-making.

The Islands (Scotland) Bill seeks to put in place a framework of measures and policy changes which aim to improve day-to-day outcomes for island communities in Scotland – reflecting the unique geographical and socio-economic challenges faced by Scotland’s island communities.

The Bill will undergo further scrutiny early 2018, before being considered and voted on by Parliament during May 2018 – after which it is then anticipated to be passed into an Act later in 2018.

It’s a Bill for an Act of the Scottish Parliament to improve outcomes for island communities.

In summary this means:

  •  A requirement to ‘island proof’ future legislation and policies;
  • The creation of a National Islands Plan;
  • Statutory protection for the Na h-Eileanan an lar (Western Isles) Scottish parliamentary constituency boundary;
  • Greater flexibility around Councillor representation within island communities;
  • Extended powers to island councils in relation to marine licencing.


For more information, including key points of relevance to the Coastal Communities Network, you can download the briefing below.