Supporting island communities

Scotland’s island communities have been let down by the SNP Government and deserve fairer support and more equitable treatment.

Connectivity issues to and between Scotland’s island communities and a lack of resilience in lifeline services are driving depopulation, undermining local economies and causing serious disruption to livelihoods.

The Scottish Government’s delayed rollout of superfast broadband continues to have a disproportionate impact on rural and island communities.

Island communities are also vulnerable to damage to infrastructure. Shetland has had 2 telecommunications blackouts in the past year, once due to damage to subsea cables and once due to severe weather.

Island communities across the UK should remain viable places to live, work and study.

Depopulation in the islands is a serious challenge and it must be addressed if we are to retain the unique communities across the isles in Shetland.

Beatrice Wishart

Depopulation can be reversed with proper support for transport and communications infrastructure, helping to boost resilience and improve the sustainability of those communities affected.

Unfortunately, under the SNP this just is not happening.

Scotland’s ferry service has declined since the SNP Government came to power in 2007 with the rate of vessels being replaced falling to less than one new vessel every three years compared to every fourteen months between 1993 and 2007.

The internal ferry fleet in Orkney and Shetland fell below minimum standards in the Scottish Government's National Ferries Plan in 2013 and have been excluded from its successor, the Islands Connectivity Plan, as well as the Strategic Transport Project Review.

All this despite obvious concerns about their age, reliability, accessibility and impact on the environment.

Orkney’s ageing internal ferry fleet urgently needs replaced, but Scottish Ministers claim it’s nothing to do with them. As a result, islanders face delays, disruption and often not even being able to get on their lifeline services.

Liam McArthur

Our plan

We need to see strong action from the Scottish Government to ensure our island communities can thrive.

  1. The Scottish Government to launch a public inquiry into the construction of ferries in Scotland, in particular the construction of vessels 801 and 802 at Ferguson Marine shipyard which are more than 5 years behind schedule with costs rising above £250m to the taxpayer.
  2. The Scottish and UK Governments to jointly commission feasibility studies into fixed links, such as tunnels and bridges, between island communities to improve connectivity resilience, particularly in Shetland, and ensure investment continues in lifeline services whilst these feasibility studies are underway.
  3. The Scottish Government to ensure the recently established ferries taskforce with Orkney Islands Council agrees the procurement and delivery of new, low-emission ferries which are supported by fair government funding.
  4. The Scottish Government to reverse the exclusion of internal air and ferry services operated by local authorities in the Islands Connectivity Plan.
  5. The Scottish Government to increase freight capacity on island ferry routes to ensure reliable and adequate provision all year round, particularly at peak times for movement of livestock on Northern Isles routes.
  6. The Scottish Government to deliver Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) on Pentland Firth routes, fulfilling their promise to do so in 2018 and following the delivery of RET on West Coast routes in 2007.
  7. The Scottish Government to reinvest the £5m fund which was allocated to the Islands Bond scheme to support the resilience of island communities.
  8. Ofgem to commit to delivering a 220MW interconnector between Orkney and the Scottish mainland to strengthen renewable energy development.
  9. The Scottish and UK Governments to pool resources and accelerate efforts to plug remaining gaps in the provision of superfast broadband and 4G mobile coverage in island communities.
  10. The Scottish and UK Governments to improve communications resilience for island communities, ensuring support in the event of power or communications outages.
  11. The Scottish Government to ensure that the spirt of the Islands (Scotland) Act is upheld with robust and meaningful assessment of the impact of policies, strategies and services on island communities.

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