Orkney MSP, Liam McArthur, has today released his response to the Consultation on Provisions for a Future Islands Bill.
The consultation is part of an on-going debate regarding greater devolution of power to the three island authorities and ensuring decisions taken centrally take more account of island needs.
Liam McArthur has pressed the Scottish Government to ensure that proposals to ‘island-proof’ decisions and legislation actually delivers improvements in practice. He has also reiterated his calls for power over seabed assets, and not simply revenues, to be devolved to a local level.
The consultation is due to end on December 23rd.
Commenting on his response, Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur said:
“Too often the response of the current Scottish Government to an issue has been to adopt a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Yet centralisation of decision-making and services rarely benefits or reflects the needs of island communities.
“The creation of single national police and fire and rescue services, for example, has led to the loss of control rooms, local knowledge and undermined community policing.
“Another practical example, is the current system of building regulations, which risk making fuel poverty levels in the islands worse by providing a disincentive to maximise the use of insulation in new homes. This could be readily addressed, but only with a more tailored approach to setting rules and taking decisions.
“An ‘islands plan’ should provide a framework that reflects the different interests of our distinct islands. After the next election, any incoming government should be required to present a draft Plan within three months, which would be subject to consultation and agreement within 6 months of the election.
“One immediate priority would be for the Plan to address the continued exclusion of Orkney from the Scottish Government’s cheaper ferry fares scheme and transfer control of our seabed resources to a local level. It would also need to consider how we secure the future of our lifeline air services, locks in adequate funding for our health services and sets more ambitious targets for the roll out of broadband and mobile phone coverage right across our islands
“These priorities must be reflected in any Islands Bill brought forward by the government. If not, I will lodge amendments that ensure Orkney’s voice is heard in Edinburgh now and into the future.”
Notes to editors:
Please see attached Mr McArthur’s full response here - http://www.liammcarthur.org.uk/mcarthur_response_to_islands_bill_consultation