Young people and families will be offered up to £50,000 to stay in or move to islands under SNP bond plans to tackle rural population decline.
The financial support is part of Nicola Sturgeon’s manifesto for re-election, we can exclusively reveal.
The so-called Island Bonds aim to help people buy homes, start businesses and settle for the long-term.
The SNP said 100 bonds will be targeted at islands where depopulation is a risk. Details of how it will work in practice have not yet been revealed.
Western Isles candidate Alasdair Allan said island communities had had a difficult year.
“We already knew they were vulnerable to the negative impacts of Brexit, but the Covid-19 pandemic brought into sharp focus some of the very real challenges those communities face,” he said.
“Anything we can do to reverse the depopulation trend in Scotland and encourage more people to live and work in island communities should be encouraged, especially in the face of a damaging Tory Brexit.”
We revealed wider Scottish Government proposals to tackle depopulation last month.
A report suggested it could be tackled with plans to widen fertility treatment and offer “support packages” to attract new families.
Other proposals include improvements to support more remote working and harness disused buildings for community hubs.
Scottish Government economy secretary Fiona Hyslop has previously called for more migration powers to further attract families.
However, the SNP’s opponents accused the party of failing to sort out patchy broadband, deliver new ferries and sort out roads while in office.
Last night, Jamie Halcro Johnston, Scottish Conservative candidate for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “Demographic pressures in the Highlands and Islands have been known about for a long time. So it’s baffling why the SNP have taken 14 years to say they’re going to tackle it.
“Concrete plans to improve connectivity and build more housing should have been in place years ago. This would help young people live and work in their communities.
“Instead, the SNP have left ferries to rot, vital road upgrades in limbo, and a woeful R100 scheme that won’t even start here within the next Parliament.”
SNP election manifesto launch
The island bonds plan is in a wider manifesto being published by Ms Sturgeon.
Ahead of its release on April 15, the SNP leader also committed to a £2.5 billion boost for health service spending.
Billed as the key election pledge, Ms Sturgeon said it would amount to a 20 per cent increase by the end of the next parliamentary session.
Ms Sturgeon said: “In this manifesto the SNP is setting out a serious programme for serious times. It is practical but unashamedly optimistic with a transformational ambition.
“Anyone and any party which aspires to govern in these times needs to rise to the occasion – to capture the sense of possibility and hope for a better country and better world.
“At the heart of our programme is the National Health Service. If the SNP is re-elected we will use our experience to undertake a full-scale post-pandemic remobilisation of the NHS.”
Other pledges include £10 billion over a decade to replace or refurbish health facilities, invest in and reform mental health facilities, and set up a previously promised National Care Service.
Scottish Greens released their manifesto on Wednesday, while the Scottish Liberal Democrats are due to publish their proposals for government on Friday, followed by Scottish Labour and Scottish Conservatives next week.