|27 November 2015|

Plans for an Island Innovation Zone for Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides aimed at attracting more inward investment have moved a step closer.

Islands minister Derek Mackay learned more about the plans during the 11th meeting of the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group. Council leaders explained their proposals to establish the zone with enhanced powers to develop new opportunities for development and investment in the islands.

The Scottish government is committed to strengthening the scope of local decision making and the Working Group exists to explore ways to do that.

It has discussed a number of important issues over the past 12 month including the economic opportunities of renewable electricity for island communities and digital connectivity.

Derek Mackay said: “The Scottish Government’s Economic Strategy has placed innovation at the heart of its plan for long-term, sustainable economic growth. As part of the Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities’ prospectus, we gave a clear commitment to consider any proposals brought forward by the Island Councils to establish Island Innovation Zones which provide a clear focus on specific opportunities available to our island communities, and this remains the case today.

“Overall, I welcome the work done to date by the councils to identify specific sources of potential competitive advantage and jobs growth as well as the aim of a potential Innovation Zone.

“In determining the strategic imperatives of any zone, a thorough assessment of genuine strengths and real potential is crucial. I have, therefore, asked that the councils engage with Highlands and Islands Enterprise in order to set out in further detail the potential of any such zone.

“Discussions at yesterday’s meeting also highlighted the importance of the current islands consultation which I launched at the end of September. This seeks views on a range of issues including the possibility of the devolution of additional powers, stronger representation and the creation of a National Islands Plan. The consultation will close on 23 December and therefore I would encourage everyone with an interest in our islands to have a look at the consultation, as it is an ideal opportunity to influence what a future Island Bill might look like.”