10. An advisory service for those relocating to island communities (Q7–Q9)
10.1 The consultation paper discussed the possible role for an advisory service to support people relocating to island communities. It was suggested that this service could, among other things (i) help in identifying local services and support, (ii) signpost to local clubs and organisations, (iii) explain transport and travel options, and (iv) highlight the importance of local culture, community, and history.
10.2 Respondents were asked for their views about the need for such a service, its purpose and role, and who might be involved in its delivery.
Question 7: Do you agree that there would be a need for an advisory service to support those relocating to island communities?
Strongly Agree / Agree / Neither Agree nor Disagree / Disagree / Strongly Disagree
Question 8: In your opinion, what should be the main purpose and role of an advisory service to support those relocating to island communities?
Question 9: Who should be involved in the delivery of an advisory service to support those relocating to island communities?
Need for an advisory service (Q7)
10.3 Question 7 asked respondents whether they agreed that there would be a need for an advisory service to support those relocating to island communities.
10.4 Table 10.1 below shows that, overall, more than two-thirds (70%) agreed that an advisory service would be needed – including almost half who 'strongly agreed' (46%). However, there were substantial differences between the views of island respondents and non-island respondents. Around half of island respondents (45%) compared to almost 9 in 10 (88%) of non-islanders agreed that an advisory service would be needed. By contrast, around one-third (32%) of island respondents, but just 4% of non-island respondents, disagreed that there was a need for an advisory service.
|Respondent type||Island respondents (includes orgs)||Non-island respondents (includes orgs)||All respondents (individuals and orgs)|
|Neither Agree nor Disagree||149||22%||87||9%||236||14%|
10.5 Questions 8 and 9 then asked respondents for their views on the main purpose and role of an advisory service, and who should be involved in the delivery of such a service.
10.6 The main sections below present the views of respondents on each follow-up question. This is largely based on the views of those who agreed (or strongly agreed) with the need for an advisory service. However, some respondents who selected 'disagree', 'strongly disagree' or 'neither agree nor disagree' at Question 7 nevertheless went on to provide comments on the role and delivery and such a service, should one be introduced, and the views of such respondents are also included where appropriate.
10.7 The views of those who explained why they did not agree with the need for an advisory service are summarised in a separate section. This section draws on comments from those who selected 'disagree' (or 'strongly disagree') or 'neither agree nor disagree' at Question 7.
Main purpose and role of an advisory service (Q8)
10.8 Question 8 asked respondents for their views about what the main purpose and role of an advisory service would be in supporting people relocating to the island communities.
10.9 Respondents suggested a wide range of functions for the service. These included:
- Providing information on the realities and challenges of island life
- Providing information and guidance on the local history, culture (including language) and way of life
- Helping incomers settle into island life and integrate into communities, and providing social, emotional and welfare support
- Providing practical information and advice on local services and amenities, travel, tradespeople, etc.
- Advising on housing options, house and property purchases and construction, including advising on legal issues, and planning and building control regulations
- Assisting recipients in negotiating local bureaucracy and officialdom
- Providing business support and advice, advising on employment and helping people find work
- Acting as an interface between newcomers and islanders, dealing with relationship management and responding to (or preventing) conflict and tension
- Providing pre-move advice and information, helping people choose the right island, ensuring they have realistic expectations about and are fully prepared for island life, and helping people make informed decisions about relocation – this was seen as a key role by many respondents, and island respondents in particular.
10.10 There was a great deal of commonality in the views of island and non-island respondents in terms on the main purpose and roles of an advisory service. However, there was some difference in the emphasis given to different purposes and roles by different respondent types. For example, island respondents were particularly likely to emphasise the importance of purposes and roles relating to island life and culture, community integration, and pre-move advice and information, while non-island respondents were particularly likely to emphasise purposes and roles with a more practical orientation related to housing, employment and access to services and amenities etc.
10.11 Some respondents suggested the service should have roles and purposes that went beyond advice and assistance. For example, there were suggestions that the service should be involved in (or responsible for) other aspects of running the scheme such as identifying island needs for inward migration, selecting bond recipients, and monitoring adherence with conditions of the award.
10.12 Many of the comments focused on the advice and support needs of those relocating to the islands. However, some respondents (island respondents in particular) made it clear that they thought an advice service should also cater for existing residents, including people who were not bond recipients.
10.13 In terms of how an advice service might fulfil its role, respondents suggested different ways in which the service might work. Some envisaged a very hands-on service which would provide direct advice and assistance to bond recipients. Respondents suggested a wide array of activities including helping with relocation and settling in; organising networking groups and befriending or mentoring schemes; running courses (language and orientation courses, practical courses); helping with accessing services; providing property and business advice; and offering general one-to-one support). Others, however, saw this as a service that would signpost people to appropriate agencies or would focus on producing or collating local information – web-based resources, welcome packs and booklets were all mentioned. Additionally, some envisaged an in-person service with island-based offices, while others suggested the service could be largely (or wholly) web-based.
10.14 There was also a commonly expressed view that the role and design of an advisory service should be tailored to local circumstances. Respondents often said the service would need to be located on individual islands in order to provide a truly local service.
Advisory service delivery (Q9)
10.15 Question 9 asked respondents who they thought should be involved in the delivery of an advisory service.
10.16 The most common view – particularly, although not exclusively, amongst island respondents – was that island residents should be involved in the delivery of such a service. However, the definition of 'island residents' or 'local people' was not uniform across respondents. Some saw it as referring to people born on the island or who had lived there for many years; others specifically stated that it would be useful to include returners or incomers (or bond recipients) as these people would have first-hand experience of the issues faced by those moving to (or returning to) a Scottish island.
10.17 Respondents often suggested specific types of people who should be involved in delivering the service – for example, people of different ages, experiences, employment status, local community leaders and elected representatives. Others stressed the importance of diversity. It was also common for respondents to say that those involved should be knowledgeable about the island and its history and culture – some called for the inclusion of Gaelic speakers.
10.18 For some, the involvement of local people tied in with the key purposes identified for the advisory service of informing people about the realities of island life and supporting integration into the community. However, others also said that this approach would help address tensions and concerns among the local population.
10.19 Respondents also envisaged local people being involved in different ways. Some saw this as an informal or voluntary role, while others thought it was important that this was a paid role – with the advisory service seen as a way of bringing jobs to island communities.
10.20 Respondents suggested a wide range of local and national organisations that could (or should) play a role in an advisory service. These included:
- Local public services and statutory organisations including local authorities, health boards, community planning partnerships, health and social care partnerships, individual local services (e.g. education, housing, planning / building control), and specific agencies and institutions such as Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Business Gateway, the Crofting Commission, and the University of the Highlands and Islands
- Central government including the Scottish Government (including the Islands Team and the Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate), the UK Government and specific government departments and agencies (e.g. Home Office and Department for Work and Pensions) – those who thought bond recipients might come from outwith the UK sometimes suggested that representatives of overseas governments might be involved to assist with immigration and transitions
- Local groups and organisations including community councils and development trusts, voluntary organisations, social groups, and clubs
- Local businesses and business organisations with specific mention of those from the tourism, hospitality, property, construction and transport sectors.
10.21 Respondents – particularly island respondents – sometimes pointed out that a range of organisations (both statutory and non-statutory) already had relevant expertise and experience in this area that could be built on or had an infrastructure in place that could be used to deliver an advice service.
10.22 Occasionally, respondents argued that this was a role for an independent, external, or new body, and not for a local person or existing organisation – there was particular opposition to central government or civil service involvement from some respondents, and to local authority involvement from others.
10.23 Alongside those who argued for the involvement of local communities or specific organisations, some respondents focused on the expertise that should be represented in the advisory service. Suggestions here were wide-ranging (reflecting the wide-ranging functions envisaged for the service) and commonly included:
- Health and wellbeing professionals such as social workers and psychologists
- Legal, financial, property and planning experts and advisers, housing advisers, business advisers, employment advisers
- Those that could advise on farming / agriculture / crofting, and environmental and sustainability issues
- Translators and language teachers
- Mediators / facilitators / community workers.
10.24 However, across respondents as a whole, there was a widespread view that any advice service should be a collaborative venture involving both central and local organisations and local communities in various configurations. In particular, those who envisaged the service being provided by local communities or organisations nevertheless often stressed that this should be funded by the government, and / or that the government should provide oversight, organisational infrastructure, support services and / or expert input.
Views of those who did not agree with the need for an advisory service
10.25 As noted above, those who commented at Question 8 and 9 included respondents who did not agree with – or queried – the need for an advisory service This group of respondents (including those who answered 'disagree' and 'disagree strongly' at Question 7, and also some of those who answered 'neither agree nor disagree') used their comments to explain why they thought there was no need for an advisory service. Island respondents were much more likely than non-island respondents to fall into this group (see Table 10.1), but both types of respondents offered similar views in their comments.
10.26 Most commonly, respondents in this group expressed overall opposition to (or reservations about) the proposed Islands Bond policy. They did not wish to see the Bond scheme introduced at all, or they thought the scheme should focus on retaining existing residents or attracting those who had previously lived on the islands (or had links to the islands), both groups whom it was argued would not require the support of an advisory service.
10.27 Those offering more substantive reasons for disagreeing with the need for an advisory service noted the following:
- An advisory service would be a poor use of money or a 'waste of money', particularly given the small number of potential bond recipients. Respondents did not think such a service would be of benefit to existing island communities and thought the money could be better used in addressing other issues faced. Some saw such a service (particularly one that was centralised in nature) as 'pointless bureaucracy'.
- An advisory service was not needed for the following inter-linked reasons:
- o Island communities were welcoming and helpful and would be able to provide any advice needed by newcomers; additionally, it was argued that those moving to islands would be keen to integrate with local communities.
- o Those relocating (or considering this) should be proactive in doing their own research and seeking assistance. This was seen as a sign of commitment to their re-location project. Furthermore, it was suggested that anyone who needed the support of an advisory service may not be best suited to island life, and advisory service input would not make a long-term difference in such cases.
- o Moving to an island is not significantly different to moving to any other location – many people make such moves without the support of an advisory service.
- o A wide range of information and support was already available. Respondents highlighted statutory and non-statutory organisations and groups that currently play a role in this area; while others highlighted the availability of websites and social-media resources.
10.28 Some respondents (island respondents, in particular) also argued that an advisory service was misguided or could even be unhelpful. For example, respondents said that:
- A centralised government-led body was not appropriate given that all islands were different and that incomers would all have different needs for support and assistance.
- An advisory service could not address the underlying challenges of island life.
- An advisory service may be seen as 'official' and unwelcoming and could deter 'real' integration; it could be interpreted as patronising to incomers and islanders, could heighten the perception of island communities as different, and could exacerbate tensions between those who get financial support and advice, and those who do not.
10.29 However, some respondents in this group offered some substantive comments on the role of an advisory service and how it might be delivered, should one be established. The main views were that the service should (i) be community-led and delivered by local organisations or people, (ii) focus on providing information and advice to help people make an informed decision about relocation, (iii) be limited in scope and provide background, low-level, short-term or online support only, (iv) avoid duplication with and build on existing sources of information and advice, and (v) be available to existing inhabitants as well as newcomers.
10.30 Across all types of respondents there was a view that the purpose and mode of delivery for an advisory service could not be commented on until the details of the Islands Bond scheme itself and the role of the advisory service were clearer.
10.31 Finally, some groups and organisations expressed a wish to be involved in the delivery of an advisory service – this included some who had reservations about the Islands Bond or the advisory service but nevertheless wished to be involved if the initiative went ahead.
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