Legislation to empower Scotland’s island communities will be brought forward in the parliamentary year beginning in September.
The proposed Islands Bill consider responses received to the recent public consultation and is aimed at providing a framework to better meet the specific needs of island communities.
A major part shaping the Bill will be played by the newly created Islands Strategic Group, bringing all six local authorities with responsibility for Scotland’s 93 inhabited island communities together, including North Ayrshire.
Kenneth Gibson commented:
“The SNP manifesto contained a clear and substantial promise to empower Island communities and the newly-elected SNP Government has wasted no time living up to this commitment.
“Only three months into government, a consultation on the Islands Bill has already been carried out, and a dedicated Islands Strategic Group has been formed.
“As Arran and Cumbrae are in my constituency, I will follow and participate in the process with a particular interest.”
The SNP Island Manifesto contains the following ten objectives.
• Give Island communities a stronger voice with a new Islands Bill, and continue the Islands Working Group;
• Develop a National Islands Plan to ensure our islands fulfill their economic potential;
• Maintain the Air Discount Scheme at 50 per cent; invest in quality ferry services; keep ferry fares as low as possible, and provide concessionary travel for our older people;
• Superfast broadband will be extended to all premises by 2021, with island businesses continuing to benefit from rates relief through the Small Business Bonus scheme;
• Record investment in our NHS, supporting health care across our islands with more health care in the community and continued support for island hospitals, health centres and health staff;
• Free childcare doubled and action to improve attainment in our schools;
• Ensure Winter Fuel Payments, which are being devolved to Holyrood, will be paid early to people who are “off-grid” – making a huge difference to older people in remote areas;
• A £5 million investment to support island and Rural produce;
• Support for island energy industries, pushing the UK Government to deliver the connections that are needed;
• Ensure island communities receive the full revenues from Crown Estate assets around their shores and have a greater say in how the assets of the Crown Estate are managed.