The Scottish Government’s scheme for an Islands Bond to address depopulation in island communities may be under serious review.
A consultation which closed in October of last year has still to publish its results but the response from those who live in islands to the scheme suggests that a major change could be underway.
Asked about the Islands Bond by Liam McArthur, LibDem MSP for Orkney, which would give up to £50,000 to those eligible in order to remain or take up residence in the islands, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands , Mairi Gougeon said:
“The delivery of the islands bond scheme is still being carefully considered in the light of the strong feedback that we received from island residents, and in the context of the current energy crisis and rising living costs that are being experienced by many islanders.
“Further details will be announced later this summer as part of the response to the 12-week consultation in an analysis report. We expect to publish the analysis of that consultation in the coming weeks.
“In addition to the online consultation that we undertook, officials have undertaken a series of visits to our islands and taken part in further engagement with our communities to find out what is important to them, so that we can listen to that feedback and act on it. That is exactly what we intend to do.”
Liam McArthur suggested that one option would be to combine the funding for the Islands Bond with other available government funding to support the introduction of a third aircraft on Orkney’s internal air routes.
Commenting Liam McArthur said:
“It’s increasingly clear that there is little if any support within our island communities for the proposed Islands Bond scheme.
“However, I welcome the steps taken by the Minister to consult and her assurance that she is listening. This will have given islanders an opportunity to get across the message about how this funding might best be used to increase the resilience needed to support island populations.
“I detect a willingness by the Minister to think again. If that is the case, I am sure that the funding can be used in ways than genuinely help deliver some of the original objectives of the scheme.”
The Islands Bond was an SNP Manifesto pledge for the 2021 election – 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.