Council working to support island communities
Posted on 8 Jul 2020
North Ayrshire Council is working with island communities to bring urgent, targeted measures to support recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Council Leader Joe Cullinane has written to Scottish Ministers with proposals aimed at helping the islands of Arran and Cumbrae survive the current economic and social upheaval.
The proposed measures include the creation of a bespoke Island Fund, more financial support for island businesses and increasing ferry capacity safely.
While local economies across Scotland and the rest of the UK are likely to suffer as a result of the pandemic, island communities are likely to face greater financial challenges than most.
Both Arran and Cumbrae – home to about 6,500 residents - rely on ferries as the primary means of welcoming goods and visitors, and accessing many essential services.
But the reduced capacity and frequency of ferry crossings as a result of essential public health measures are having a significant and disproportionate impact on the islands’ economies and communities and will continue to do so unless urgent action is taken.
Councillor Cullinane, Cabinet Member for Community Wealth Building, has written to Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, and Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture, to request immediate action to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 and build strong, sustainable and inclusive economies.
Councillor Cullinane said: “Our islands face specific and unique challenges in restarting their economies, not least the constraints of ferry capacity. We are continuing to work closely with representatives from the island communities, including Arran Recovery Group, to develop plans as part of our wider economic recovery planning.
“Central to our approach will be Community Wealth Building and a place-based approach to ensure a more inclusive economy going forward.
"We are fully supportive of the Islands Act and the National Islands Plan and believe this is an ideal opportunity for the Scottish Government to provide island-specific interventions, and funding, to recognise the unique impact of Covid-19 on our islands.
“There is no doubt that national interventions and investment will be fundamental to securing an inclusive economic recovery for our islands and hope to work both our island communities and the Scottish Government to address this as a matter of urgency.”
North Ayrshire Council has developed four ‘asks’ of Scottish Government:
- That Calmac explore creative solutions to implement an increase in ferry capacity, whilst aligning with necessary public health measures, to ensure an economic recovery for the island in a safe and sustainable way.
- Ticketing systems for ferry journeys should prioritise journeys that will contribute to the economic and social recovery of the islands.
- At the same time as encouraging the UK Government to consider how the Job Retention Scheme can provide the required levels of sectoral support, businesses on the island will require financial intervention to support operating costs until such times when a viable number of tourists can access the island. This financial intervention should address issues such as re-mobilisation costs for business, infrastructure and training costs to support physical distancing and should also address reduced productivity during the transitional period out of Covid-19 constraints. Areas such as further taxation relief and other financial business relief should be considered as a wider package of required measures.
- The creation of a bespoke Island Fund. This should include support for short-medium term recovery and resilience by focusing on place-based initiatives, circular economy, digital innovation, sustainability and inclusive growth. Place-based initiatives should be developed in line with Community Wealth Building principles.
In the meantime, North Ayrshire Council is commissioning research on the disproportionate economic impact of COVID 19 on the island economy.