Lerwick was the host for the first annual ‘Islands Summit’ between the three Islands Councils and the UK Government.
The summit brought together the UK Government with Orkney, Shetland and Na h-Eileanan an Iar to build on the commitments set out in the UK Government’s Framework for the Islands that was published in August last year.
Discussions focused on reviewing progress on the key Government policies of interest to the islands such as connection to the national energy grid, measures to address fuel poverty, and improving connectivity with mobile and internet services.
The summit was preceded by a discussion with UK Government officials on how areas set to be devolved to the Scottish Government - through a forthcoming Scotland Bill - will impact on the islands.
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said:
I’m delighted at the progress that has been made to ensure the interests of the Scottish islands areas are ingrained in UK Government policy.
In partnership with the islands councils, we have agreement on the first set of guidelines that aims to ensure that the unique circumstances of the islands are reflected in UK Government policy across a number of key areas including energy and welfare. I’m also pleased to confirm the first ever Islands Oil and Gas forum will take place next month. This builds on the positive announcements for the oil and gas sector in yesterday’s Budget and will focus on issues affecting island communities such as community benefit and decommissioning.
This summit today takes this work to the next stage and together with further powers on the way to Scotland through the Smith Commission process there is scope to do even more in the months ahead.
Commenting on behalf of the Our Islands Our Future campaign, Leader of Shetland Islands Council Gary Robinson said:
We’re delighted to have hosted this first Islands Summit in Shetland. This will be an important mechanism in the years ahead to allow the three islands to regularly meet with the Secretary of State for Scotland, along with key civil servants, to monitor progress against the Framework for the Islands which was agreed last August.
We’re pleased with the progress we’ve made with the UK government, even over this short period of time, and it’s extremely important we maintain the momentum we’ve generated beyond May’s general election.
Today’s summit gave us the opportunity to agree the Islands Proofing process, secure and maximise the commitments made on the Crown Estate, review our progress, and, most importantly, look ahead to the coming year.
Guidelines were also published today to help UK Government departments understand the unique set of challenges faced by Island communities, and how this may influence the delivery of policy in those areas.