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17/02/14 15:11

Islands meeting

Fourth meeting of Island Areas Ministerial Working Group.

ISSUED ON BEHALF OF SHETLAND, ORKNEY AND COMHAIRLE NAN EILEAN SIAR COUNCILS

The Island Areas Ministerial Working Group chaired by Local Government Minister Derek Mackay met in Lerwick today.

The meeting was attended by Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Keith Brown, Minister for Transport and Veterans, and Fergus Ewing, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, along with the Leaders of the three island councils, and the Chief Executives of Shetland and Western Isles Councils.

The agenda for the Group’s fourth meeting included transport, agriculture, tourism, construction and digital services.

The Group will meet six times in total, and is working towards developing a prospectus outlining opportunities for island communities in the context of the referendum.

This follows the Lerwick Declaration made in Shetland last July by the First Minister, affirming the Scottish Government’s commitment to the principle of local decision-making and subsidiarity.

The next meeting of the Group is scheduled for Stornoway in March, where it is expected to consider creative industries and special status measures for the islands.

Following the meeting, Local Government Minister Derek Mackay said:

“We continue our useful and constructive discussions with our island partners to explore a range of issues that have been raised by the islands councils as we work towards an agreed prospectus.

“This dialogue and the level of Ministerial commitment demonstrates how seriously we consider the issues raised, befitting of the importance we attach to the principles of subsidiarity and local decision-making.

“We have already committed to bring forward a bill for an Islands Act upon independence to implement our proposals, and I look forward to continuing our deliberations with the islands councils as we move towards agreement.”

Shetland Islands Council Leader, Gary Robinson, said: “I believe today’s Islands Areas Ministerial Working Group has been the most crucial so far. Transport was on the agenda and that’s one of the most important issues for the islands given that it impacts upon everything that we do including tourism, which was also discussed today.

“Digital communications is hugely important in the isles and high-speed broadband has the potential to transform the way we live and work in some of Scotland’s remotest communities.

“Today we’ve put to Ministers what we want in respect of these issues - along with agriculture, construction and engineering, and look forward to seeing progress towards the prospectus that will be the culmination of this work.”