Proposals for an "islands bond" – a financial incentive to address issues caused by depopulation of island communities – have been published for consultation by the Scottish Government.
An SNP manifesto commitment in this year's election, the plans involve offering 100 bonds of up to £50,000 to young people and families to stay in or to move to islands currently threatened by depopulation.
Based on criteria to be set, bonds issued will support people to buy, build or renovate homes, start businesses and otherwise make their lives for the long term in island communities.
Ministers intend to launch the islands bond in 2022. They recognise the potential tensions arising from people from outwith the islands moving into island communities, and are also looking to develop, in parallel to the bond mechanism, options for a relocation support or advisory service to help to provide a "soft landing" for those looking to move from elsewhere.
The islands that would be covered by the bond have still to be identified, through an evaluation of historical and projected population decline – and whether particular locations may be experiencing growth – and whether the focus should be on overall population levels or particular demographics.
"Consideration will also need to be given to which capital costs are eligible, and this may be influenced by locally identified priorities and/or need", the paper states.
It continues: "In order to ensure the level of funding is reasonable, the value of individual bonds may require to be needs based. Development of the assessment process will need to explore what evidence would provide sufficient reasoning for requesting a bond, reassurance that funding would be spent against agreed criteria, and options for monitoring/evaluation."
Questions include what should be the criteria and the priority focus for the bond, and what role the supporting advisory service should have.
Click here to access the consultation. The deadline for responses is 25 October 2021.