NADHIM Zahawi will travel to Orkney to chair the first meeting in a series designed to boost support for the Union throughout the UK.
The new minister for intergovernmental relations, responsible for overseeing relations between the devolved governments and Westminster, will convene the meeting of representatives from island communities across the country on Wednesday.
Critics have said the session is just the “latest, desperate attempt to try and claim the Union is somehow still relevant”.
The UK Government has said the aims of the meeting are to explore how island communities can reach net zero targets and whether deregulation is the answer to this.
It will take place at the Orkney Research & Innovation Campus and feature representatives in the form of council leaders from all the UK’s islands, from the Isle of Wight to the Western Isles.
A representative from Ofgem, the energy regulator, will also be present for one session on the day to “allow island representatives to share their views on regulatory barriers to net zero ambitions and explore next steps to address them”.
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Scottish Greens MSP for Highlands and Islands Ariane Burgess said: “If this new minister really wanted to give our islands a stronger voice as he claims, then he would persuade the Prime Minister and his colleagues to drop their opposition to Scotland holding a referendum on independence next year.
“We have massive natural resources and are a world leader in renewable energy so it is little wonder the UK Government is choosing Orkney to launch a land grab for the spoils of Scotland’s greener economic future.
“This cynical drawing together of disparate groups is nothing more than the latest attempts to try and claim the Union is somehow still relevant. It won’t wash, ahead of what I am sure will be yet further attempts to drag out the lifespan of the fossil fuel industry.”
Nadhim Zahawi, who also holds the position of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said: “It is often said that people make a place, and this is certainly true of the UK’s island communities, who contribute a huge amount to our country but often face common challenges.
“I look forward to hearing directly from island communities and working closely with the devolved governments on the issues that matter most to local people, making good on our promise to deliver for the whole United Kingdom.”
Scotland Office minister Macolm Offord said: “We want to talk with our crucial island communities to understand how best they can flourish and make the most of the opportunities presented by, for instance, their renewable energy resources.
“The new Forum is a tremendous opportunity to draw on the collective expertise of people from islands right around the UK coastline, from Scilly to Shetland, to share both solutions to challenges and best practice. I look forward to what I am sure will be a highly productive event.”