On the eve of the Scottish Parliament voting on the Islands (Scotland) Bill, Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has welcomed confirmation that the government will now back a key amendment that will allow existing legislation and policy to be subject to so-called ‘island proofing’.
Since the bill was first published, Mr McArthur has made the case consistently that ‘island proofing’ should not just apply to future legislation, policy and strategies. With current laws and policy often taking little or no account of the needs and circumstances of island communities, Orkney’s MSP has argued repeatedly for the bill to allow the worst examples to be addressed retrospectively.
Having worked closely with Orkney Islands Council and MSPs from other parties, Mr McArthur now believes he has the support for his amendment that would allow retrospective island proofing, based on requests being made to Ministers by relevant local authorities.
During Stage 2 consideration of the Bill, the Transport and Islands Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP, was reluctant to support proposals put forward by Mr McArthur, but has now indicated that the government will be able to give its backing to a revised version of Mr McArthur’s amendment at Stage 3.
Commenting on developments, Mr McArthur said:
“From the outset, I have made clear that ‘island proofing’ needs to be able to look back as well as forward. Too often in the past, a one-size-fits-all approach to making policy and laws has ignored the needs of island communities, like Orkney.
“I have highlighted examples of where regulations governing issues as varied as building standards and home care provision seem to take little account of the impact they will have in an island setting. In some cases, they risk achieving the opposite of the laudable objectives behind them.
“That is in no-one’s interests, least of all island communities themselves. So I am pleased that the Scottish Government now appears willing to accept the case for island proofing to be applied retrospectively and will be backing my amendment at Stage 3 tomorrow.
“If this Bill is to meet the expectations of islanders and island communities, it needs to address existing obstacles that hold them back, as well as ensure a more tailored approach to law and policy-making in future. Support for my amendment will go some way to helping make this happen.”