The Islands Bill: Government looks to safeguard future of Scotland’s islands

Scotland’s islands have been handed reassurance that their future is in safe hands after the Scottish Government passed a new bill which seeks to ensure the islands continue to thrive for years to come. The Islands Bill enshrines in legislation the government’s commitment to the country’s 93 inhabited islands, home to around 100,00 inhabitants. It proposes a greater degree of autonomy for the islands in marine licensing as part of the wider ‘National Islands Plan’, a programme designed to ensure that Scotland’s island-dwelling communities have a say in policy-making at Holyrood.

Islands Minister Humza Yousef has praised the bill as ‘historic’, noting that it is the first of its kind to be introduced into existing Scottish legislation. It comes at a time when the health of Scotland’s islands is under threat from a number of external forces, most notably depopulation.

However, Scotland’s thriving tourist industry has helped to offset the impacts of a steadily declining island population. In recent years Scotland has established itself as a world-leading destination, and was famously voted by readers of RoughGuides as the most beautiful country in the world. In tandem with schemes like the Road Equivalent Tariff, which scaled back ferry prices to make the same distance by road an equal cost, tourists’ appetite for the islands’ beauty and gastronomy has proven a catalyst for members of parliament to review and improve the relationship between the central belt and the country’s inhabited islands.

Scotland’s islands are home to unique cultural and geological sites which must be protected, just as those abiding in the islands should have a say in how their communities are run. Experience Scotland therefore welcomes the introduction of the Islands Bill, and warmly encourages you to experience for yourself the majesty that the Scottish isles can offer.

Image: Rick Pdx