An Islands Bill with teeth, because of Liberal Democrats
In news from Scotland, the Liberal Democrats have been instrumental in delivering new legislation that offers greater protection and powers to Scotland's island communities. Read from Orkney MSP Liam McArthur on what the party achieved.
Year in year out, our islands are voted among the best places to live. From unique culture to breathtaking landscapes and world class heritage, we have it all. But for those of us who live and work in our islands, we know there are also unique challenges.
All too often, however, there is a one-size-fits-all approach to legislation and policy-making that takes no account of island needs or circumstances. In addition, the SNP’s obsession with centralisation has seen powers stripped away over the years.
So, when the Scottish Government announced its intention to introduce a dedicated Islands Bill, Liberal Democrats made it our business to make it work for our island communities.
This past month, we did just that.
In the face of SNP opposition, we secured the votes necessary to create an Islands Bill with real teeth. An Islands Bill that better reflects the expectations of islanders.
Where appropriate, island authorities will now be able to apply for more powers and responsibilities. The Scottish Parliament also gave its support to our proposals to ensure the needs of island communities in relation to lifeline transport links, broadband and digital connectivity and fuel poverty are addressed.
I am also pleased that, thanks to a Liberal Democrat amendment, not just future but also existing policy and legislation will now be subjected to a so-called ‘island proofing’ test. This can help address some of the existing problems caused by that one-size-fits-all approach, as well as hopefully reducing the risks in future.
This Bill must signal an end to our islands being treated by government as an after-thought. The test will be whether Ministers and their agencies will respect not just the letter but the spirit of the law.
Island communities will expect nothing less, and Liberal Democrats will be here to ensure it happens.