Orkney Islands Council (Meetings)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 24 March 2021.

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Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

3. To ask the Scottish Government when it last met Orkney Islands Council and what was discussed. (S5O-05156)

Photo of Aileen Campbell Aileen Campbell Scottish National Party

I last met James Stockan, leader of Orkney Islands Council, and John Mundell, interim chief executive, on Tuesday 23 March to discuss a range of issues relating to the relaxation of Covid restrictions specific to Orkney and the islands.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I thank the cabinet secretary for that response and join other members in wishing her all the best, as I did in yesterday’s debate on the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.

The cabinet secretary will be aware of the disparity in funding per head of population between Scotland’s three island authorities. At present, that represents a shortfall in Orkney’s allocation of around £8 million in comparison with Shetland’s and £15 million in comparison with that of the Western Isles. That has been a long-standing concern of Orkney Islands Council, but little progress has been made over recent years. Does the cabinet secretary agree that that disparity needs to be addressed in the next session of the Scottish Parliament?

Photo of Aileen Campbell Aileen Campbell Scottish National Party

I thank Liam McArthur for his kind words. As he knows, funding is allocated to local authorities through the distribution formula, which is agreed with Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. Any changes to that would need to be made via COSLA. Whoever holds my position in the next session will be able to continue to engage with COSLA on that basis.

I point to the fact that there has recently been investment through the islands deal, which my colleague Michael Matheson has taken forward. There continues to be a recognition of the importance of our island communities to the success of Scotland.

We will take on Mr McArthur’s viewpoint. I will make sure that whoever takes up my position in the next session understands his concern, but any changes to the distribution formula would have to be made through engagement with COSLA.