Special bonds worth up to £50,000 could be made available to help tackle the “population challenges” facing some of Scotland’s islands.
Government ministers have launched a consultation on plans to introduce a £5 million Island Bonds scheme.
Under the proposals, the bonds could be given to young people and families to help them to either move to or stay in islands that are currently seeing their populations dwindle.
The Scottish Government said the bonds could allow people to buy, build or renovate homes, as well as start a business, in a bid to help them live a sustainable life on the islands.
Speaking at the start of the 12-week consultation, Islands Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “The Islands Bond will help us to deliver on some of the commitments from the National Islands Plan. It’s a way for us to address some of the key financial barriers for people who want to live on our islands.”
She added: “Each of our islands are unique and this consultation will help us understand some of the population challenges across our islands and make sure that we can properly address them.
“It will also provide information to enable us to set up a relocation support or advisory service and make the move for people as smooth as possible.
“I’d encourage people across Scotland, especially those on our islands, to provide a response to this consultation and make sure their voices are heard to help shape the Bond.
“As well as delivering this consultation, we’ll continue to engage with local authorities, island communities and other relevant stakeholders as we develop the bond.”
Liberal Democrat Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said: “Given the choice between an eye-catching press release and the hard, dogged work of reversing decades of depopulation, SNP ministers can never resist a stunt.
“From health inequalities to broadband connectivity, the shopping list of issues for ministers to tackle is substantial.
“A government that was serious about this issue would get on with boosting investment in isles infrastructure, delivering affordable housing and replacing our ageing ferry infrastructure urgently.
“Scotland’s island communities don’t deserve to be an afterthought.”