SNP offers Scots up to £50,000 to move to the islands

Nicola Sturgeon’s party plans bond scheme to stop rural depopulation

Adam Forrest@adamtomforrest
Thursday 15 April 2021 12:01
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<p>A view of the Isle of Mull in Scotland’s Western Isles, which have suffered from population decline in recent years</p>

A view of the Isle of Mull in Scotland’s Western Isles, which have suffered from population decline in recent years

Scots will be offered up to £50,000 by the SNP to stay on or move to the islands, under Nicola Sturgeon’s plans to tackle rural population decline in Scotland.

Her party is worried about ongoing depopulation in Shetland, Orkney and the Hebrides, and want to give young people and families a financial incentive to live and work in remote communities.

The “Island Bonds” plan – set to be unveiled in the SNP’s manifesto launch on Thursday – is aimed at helping people buy homes and start businesses on Scotland’s islands.

The scheme will be available to people currently living on the islands and those who wish to move there, according to the Press and Journal, which first reported on the Holyrood election campaign promise.

“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,” said the SNP’s Western Isles candidate Alasdair Allan.

Scottish government advisers recently suggested that a special “Scottish visa” could help address population decline north of the border.

The experts said a post-Brexit visa for Scotland could encourage migrants to move to rural parts of the country struggling with depopulation.

In February group recommended that the UK government consider relaxing conditions on its post-Brexit skilled worker visa so employers in Scotland could have their own “shortage occupation” list.

But a UK government spokesperson responded to report by saying Downing Street did not want to “create an economic migration border between Scotland and the rest of the UK”.

Nicola Sturgeon out campaigning in Glasgow

Ms Sturgeon will set out more details of the bond scheme later on Thursday. She has also promised a “transformational” spending increase for the Scottish NHS if her party wins next month’s Holyrood vote.

The SNP manifesto for the 6 May election will contain a pledge to boost frontline NHS spending by at least 20 per cent – a move which would see frontline spending rise by more than £2.5bn by the end of the next Holyrood term.

“Investment in the NHS is already at record levels. But the pandemic has placed exceptional pressures on our NHS – and that requires an exceptional response,” the first minister is expected to say.

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