Islands Bill passes first stage in Scottish Parliament

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The Scottish Parliament unanimously voted in favour of the general principles of the historic Islands Bill last week to allow it to progress.

The goal of the Bill is to empower the islands’ communities by making sure the needs of the islands are considered when future legislation is being created.

Transport and islands minister Humza Yousaf MSP said: ‘This 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.’

Arran’s MSP Kenneth Gibson, who spoke in support of the Bill, added: ‘I am delighted that the Islands Bill, designed to better suit the distinct needs of island communities such as Arran and Cumbrae, passed it first stage in parliament unanimously.

‘The Bill builds on the SNP government’s work to enhance island communities and economies, such as the introduction of Road Equivalent Tariff; investment of over £1 billion in ferry services including £48.5 million on the MV Glen Sannox, which will serve the Arran to Ardrossan route, and £12.6 million on the MV Catriona.

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

Key provisions of the Islands Bill include:

  • The development of a National Islands Plan;
  • A requirement to ‘island proof’ all future legislation and policies;
  • The introduction of a regulation-making power for the SNP government to create a licensing scheme, following a request from a local authority, in relation to works in or under the sea in the coastal waters surrounding islands for up to 12 nautical miles.

West region Conservative MSP Jamie Greene MSP pledged to continue to work constructively with the Scottish Government in helping to develop the bill over the coming months and has also set up a video conference link between the Scottish Parliament and community leaders on Arran as part of the official evidence gathering session of the parliament’s scrutiny of the new Bill.

The Bill will now progress through Stage 2, being scrutinised by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee and giving MSPs a chance to lodge amendments. It is anticipated that the Bill will be passed at Stage 3 before the summer.