Scotland offering £50k 'golden hellos' to families who move to remote islands

25 May 2022, 16:16 | Updated: 25 May 2022, 16:18

The Isle of Skye in northwest Scotland
The Isle of Skye in northwest Scotland. Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Scotland is planning to offer £50,000 to families who move to its remotest islands in a bid to tackle dwindling populations.

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The islands bond is part of the Scottish Government's National Islands Plan and could be handed out within weeks.

Uisdean Robertson, chairman of the Western Isles council's transportation and infrastructure committee, told The Times interest in the scheme had been expressed from as far as Ecuador.

The government said a formal consultation had been completed and it intends to offer 100 bonds costing £5 million.

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It said the initiative was to "help support more people to stay or move to some of our most vulnerable communities".

"We are now continuing to engage with island communities. We expect to publish the analysis very soon," the government added.

Alasdair Allan, the SNP MSP for the Western Isles, described "depopulation" as "one of the biggest threats to our island communities".

He told The Times: "Anything we can do to reverse depopulation trends should be encouraged.

"These bonds will support people to buy homes, start businesses, and otherwise make their lives here for the long-term."

However, Liam McArthur, a Liberal Democrat, said the money was "set to benefit only a small minority" and could be put to better use.

He added: "It also has the potential to open up divisions rather than tackle the root causes of depopulation in island communities.

"Poor transport connections, non-existent broadband and unaffordable housing are just some of the factors holding back economic prosperity.

"Rather than offering bribes to individuals, Scottish ministers should instead commit to investing in projects that benefit island communities as a whole."

Mr Robertson called the scheme a "bit of a gimmick" and said "young people with families" and a "connection to the island" were needed to live there.

However, Rural Affairs and Islands Minister Mairi Gougeon insisted the bonds were "really positive step" and not a "bribe".