Today, Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) is delighted to launch a novel partnership with Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands and Western Isles (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar) councils and the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), focussed on identifying how Scottish Government’s Islands Plan can benefit island communities.
The research will investigate the changing relationship between local authorities and governments in Holyrood and Westminster through the implementation of the plan, with a view to understanding how communities can be empowered and engaged in delivering better outcomes and individual wellbeing.
The programme will be supported by one fully funded four year PHD student placement while the research to critically analyse the developing and changing role of island based local government and its relationship with partners and communities is being conducted. A further area of focus will be on how different forms of ownership and cooperation can be incorporated into the local implementation of the Plan.
LGIU’s Local Democracy Research Centre (LDRC) seeks to develop links between local government and research institutions around the world. The outputs of this project, and the partnerships that it helps to develop, will benefit LGIU members in Scotland and elsewhere.
The start date for the project is 15th January 2022. All candidates are asked to supply an academic CV and cover letter, explaining their suitability as a candidate, to Professor Donna Heddle, Acting Vice Principal (Research and Impact) and Director of the institute of Northern Studies at the University of Highlands and Islands via Donna.Heddle@uhi.ac.uk. The deadline for applications is 12th November 2021 at 5pm.
Andrew Walker, Head of Research, LGIU said: “This is a truly historic moment for LGIU and the first of what we hope will be many such partnerships for our newly launched Local Democracy Research Centre. We are delighted to bring together LGIU, local government and the research community for this important and exciting project to develop a shared understanding as well as practical insights for local and national policy makers.
We look forward to receiving applications from high calibre students for this project and continuing to build strong relationships in the community such as this.”
Dr Beth Mouat, Islands Strategy Director, the University of the Highlands and Islands, said: “Strengthening research activity in the islands is a key theme for our university partnership and we are proud to be building on the significant number of research students already associated with our island based centres and institutes. We are committed to expanding the number of PhD students and the geographical spread of these over the coming years.”
Councillor James Stockan, Leader, Orkney Islands Council, said: “Closer working relationships between local authorities and our Governments is always welcome and we would hope that the Scottish Government Islands Plan can make a tangible difference to island communities such as ours.
We know Orkney is incredibly special, but that does not mean that we do not face our own set of unique challenges. Ongoing evaluation through a research programme such as this will help shape how we move forward.”
Roddie Mackay, Leader, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “The Comhairle looks forward to working with UHI and LGIU in this partnership. We will be keen to see how the Scottish Government’s Islands plan can benefit our communities as the Comhairle is committed to community empowerment and engagement.”
Notes to editors
This project will identify how the Islands Plan translates into actions to benefit island communities, and to what extent it responds to the aspirations expressed by the Islands Councils through their Our Islands Our Future campaign.
The key research questions are to:
Identify how the National Islands Plan translates into actions to benefit island communities, and to what extent that responds to the aspirations expressed by the Islands Councils through their Our Islands Our Future campaign, embodied first in Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities, and thereafter in the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018.
Investigate the changing relationship between Scottish Government, local authorities, and other public bodies in providing services to meet the objectives of the National Islands Plan, with a view to understanding how communities can be empowered and engaged in delivering better outcomes and individual wellbeing. This would emerge from research involving discussion with the council, communities (geographic and of interest) and the annual reporting from the Scottish Government. Alternative forms of working should emerge, and others have been proposed and worked up to some extent already.
Investigate how different forms of ownership and cooperation can be incorporated into the local implementation of the National Islands Plan.
LGIU (Local Government Information Unit) was established in 1983 as an independent, not-for-profit local authority membership organisation and think tank. Now as LGIU England & Wales, LGIU Scotland, LGIU Ireland and LGIU Australia we work for and with local authorities around the world, helping them to serve their citizens more effectively. Our members are councils and other organisations with an interest in local government.
We provide the unrivalled intelligence and support that officers and councillors need every day. We work with our members and other stakeholders to drive forward the ideas and solutions needed to provide sustainable public services in the future. And, we deliver the commentary that makes the value of local government clear to all.
About The University of the Highlands and Islands
The University of the Highlands and Islands provides tertiary education, encompassing both further and higher education. Its distinctive partnership of colleges and research intuitions is based locally and rooted in communities and has national and international reach as part of its tertiary university structure. The university covers the largest geographical areas of any campus-based university or college in the UK and it has physical bases within each of Scotland’s main island groupings. It first published its new Islands Strategy in 2020. www.uhi.ac.uk
The studentship is at the university’s Institute for Northern Studies, a world leading research and teaching centre which was rated first in Scotland for research impact and fifth equal with the University of Oxford across the UK in the Research Excellence Framework Exercise in 2014.
It is internationally renowned for its innovative postgraduate teaching and research programmes in Orkney and Shetland Studies, Highlands and Islands Literature, Viking Studies and Islands Studies. They have also just launched a brand new online only MLitt in Scottish Heritage.
Second supervisor Dr Steven Heddle brings a wealth of experience to the role. He was previously Political and Civic Leader of Orkney Islands Council; and President of the Convention of Peripheral and Maritime Regions) Islands Commission and currently is the COSLA Environment and Economy spokesperson, with responsibility for these policy areas when representing local government nationally and in engagement with Scottish Government, plus other advisory roles.