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New islands transport forum

Islands Bill consultation and transport top of agenda at Island group meeting.

A forum will be set up to consider strategic transport issues affecting Scotland’s Islands, as agreed yesterday during the 8th meeting of the Islands Areas Ministerial Working Group held in Orkney yesterday.

The Islands Transport Forum, established by Islands Minister Derek Mackay, will meet biannually and will include representatives from local authorities with island communities.

It is intended that the forum would deal with internal and external ferry, air, and other transport services upon which each of the island communities so heavily depend on for social cohesion and sustainable economic activity and growth.

The Islands Transport Forum will consider opportunities and difficulties, including:

  • Improving collaboration between Transport Scotland, RTPs and Islands Councils
  • Ensuring clarity with regard to roles, responsibilities and obligations in the context of the CHFS and NIFS Public Service Contracts
  • Establishing a process that fully accounts for island-specific views
  • Ensuring efficient and effective lines of communication between all key stakeholders to facilitate improved consultation and engagement, sharing of information, cascading of decisions and escalation of issues between and to the most appropriate levels

This was also the first opportunity for the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group to discuss in detail the planned Islands Bill consultation. The consultation announced recently by the First Minister will be published this summer.

Nicola Sturgeon told the Convention of the Highlands and Islands (COHI) that views would help draft a future Islands Bill to provide more power, equality and protection for the Islands to allow them to build a more prosperous and fairer future for their communities.

It follows the publishing of the ‘Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities’ prospectus in Orkney last June – the most comprehensive empowerment package for our Islands put forward by any Government.

Following the meeting, Mr Mackay said yesterday:

“The Scottish Government previously committed to looking at devolving more autonomy to our islands and decentralise decision making to those who live and work in these unique parts of Scotland. We have taken a further two steps in that direction by announcing the Islands Transport forum today and our consultation on the Islands Bill which will be published this summer.

“We want to work to make our islands stronger and let them flourish. The Island Areas Ministerial Working Group is an important platform to make that happen in the right way, giving our island communities a voice to shape their future for social cohesion and sustainable economic activity and growth.”

Speaking on behalf of the three island authorities, Orkney Islands Council Convener Steven Heddle said yesterday:

“At today’s meeting we raised a range of transport issues, matters of fundamental importance to the people we serve.

“As island communities, we need air and ferry links that people can depend on and afford to use.

“This is vital for the wellbeing of our communities and our discussions focused on how we can ensure Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles are served by transport links that are sustainable long term and less costly in future than they are at present.”

Councillor Heddle added yesterday: “Our talks today also looked at how we take forward the Scottish Government’s commitment to devolve to the islands the revenue from Crown Estate assets in our coastal waters.

“This income stream should directly benefit people in the communities where it is generated. We feel the best way to achieve this is for our local authorities to have responsibility for the management of these assets.

“The Government’s continuing commitment to the Our Islands Our Future process is encouraging. It was clearly demonstrated today by the presence of four Ministers at our meeting in Kirkwall.”

Notes To Editors

Examples of recent investment in Islands transport includes:

STO-ULL ferry route upgrade - The Scottish Government has secured funding of £42 million for the MV Loch Seaforth. It has also invested £17 million in the infrastructure works at Ullapool Harbour and £9.6 million in the infrastructure works at Stornoway Harbour. For more information and for details of additional summer sailings:

Air Discount Scheme renewed –

Investment at Sumburgh Airport -

New PSO planes -


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