Northern Isles MSPs Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott have today warned that that proposals for an Islands Bill must “be more than a tick box exercise.”
The warning comes in response to the publication today (June 12th) of the Islands (Scotland) Bill.
The MSPs, pointing to the exclusion of Orkney and Shetland from the government’s cheaper ferry fares scheme, have previously cautioned that the proposals put forward will not be delivered without a change of mindset from a government which has exercised “ever more control” in Edinburgh.
In a joint statement today, Mr McArthur and Mr Scott said:
“The simple question islanders will ask is what will change? An islands law is fine but what will it do in practice? Does it reverse the centralisation of public services that has happened over the last decade? Does it cut our ferry fares as SNP Ministers keep promising but have yet to deliver? Does it ease the huge financial pressure the islands councils and health boards are under as a direct result of decisions made in Edinburgh?
“We want an Islands bill that is more than a tick box exercise. It must have teeth and deliver real devolution of decision making. It must put power in the hands of local people and communities, rather than ever more control being exercised by SNP Ministers in Edinburgh. That is the acid test of these proposals.
“We will work with the newly elected local councils in Orkney and Shetland on delivering a law which meets these aspirations. That is what we proposed before and is the approach then developed by Our Islands Our Future (OIOF).
“Now it will be our task, working together, to design a stronger law that makes positive things happen for people across the Northern Isles.”