The Islands Bill has received Royal Assent and become an Act of the Scottish Parliament.
(Left to right) James Stockan, Leader Orkney Islands Council, Alistair Buchan, Chief Executive Orkney Islands Council, Malcolm Burr, Chief Executive Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Steven Coutts, Leader Shetland Islands Council, Maggie Sandison, Chief Executive Shetland Islands Council, Roddie Mackay, Leader Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
The Queen has added her signature to the Bill, marking the moment that it became part of the legislation in force in Scotland.
This has been hailed as a landmark achievement for the councils in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.
The Bill was a key aim of the Our Islands Our Future campaign led by the three local authorities, which are working together to secure more decision making at a local level and greater economic prosperity for their communities.
It paves the way for measures that allow a further devolution of powers for island communities. It will also enable the ‘island proofing’ of existing as well as future policies and legislation, ensuring that these take into account the special circumstances of island communities – and do not disadvantage people living and working in the islands.
Orkney Islands Council Leader James Stockan said: “The Bill passing into law after the granting of Royal Assent is a hugely significant moment in the history of our communities.
“We presented a compelling case to the Scottish Government and to MSPs from across the political spectrum. The result is fit-for-purpose legislation that will underpin our efforts to ensure a secure and prosperous future for the people of the islands.”
Roddie Mackay, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “This is an important, historical day for our islands and indeed, for all of Scotland’s islands. This has been a pioneering process that will result in real, practical benefits for our communities. It is also a major step forward in empowering the people that live and work on Scotland’s Islands.
“Engagement with Government will continue over the summer and there will be an opportunity for communities to shape the National Islands Plan which is one of the key elements of the Islands (Scotland) Act. The Act provides that this Plan will cover matters such as population, transport and digital connectivity, all particularly important for island communities. I would encourage communities to take advantage of this opportunity.
“I would like to pay tribute to all those who have worked hard to bring about the major achievements so far, particularly our colleagues in Shetland and Orkney and Scottish Government Ministers. However, the work goes on and the Councils are now focussing on the Islands’ Deal. This will complement the National Islands Plan and bring much needed, transformational investment benefits to our islands, helping to combat the challenges that we face and increasing the contribution that Islands make to the economic prosperity, cultural diversity and international reputation of Scotland and the UK.”
Steven Coutts, Leader of Shetland Islands Council, said: “This is a historic achievement for our islands, and marks a new phase of collaboration between these three island authorities and national government.
“This is enabling legislation, and much will now depend on future support from the Scottish Government to develop guidance to embed the legislation and help achieve our ambitions for the future.”
The three Island Councils are bringing forward proposals for an ambitious Islands Deal that will be transformational for the economies and communities of the islands.
Securing investment is the focus for the next phase of collaboration, with the councils working together to win support from the UK and Scottish Governments for the Islands Deal initiative.