Islands Bond: consultation responses analysis

External analysis of Islands Bond online consultation responses, carried out by Griesbach and Associates.

1. Introduction

1.1 The Scottish Government intends to launch an Islands Bond which will offer financial support to those wishing to move to, or remain in, one of Scotland's island communities. A consultation seeking views on the design and implementation of the proposed Bond was carried out between 2 August 2021 and 25 October 2021. This report presents findings from an analysis of responses to that consultation.

Policy context

1.2 Population decline is a serious issue for many of Scotland's island communities. [1] The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 requires the Scottish Government to prepare a National Islands Plan in order to 'set out the main objectives and strategy of the Scottish Ministers in relation to improving outcomes for island communities'. Increasing population levels is identified as a key component in this regard – alongside other considerations such as promoting sustainable economic development, improving health and wellbeing, increasing community empowerment, and upgrading transport services and digital connectivity.

1.3 Following extensive consultation with island communities during which depopulation was identified as the top priority issue by respondents, Scotland's first National Islands Plan was published in December 2019. This Plan sets out 13 strategic objectives for improving the quality of life for island communities over the next 5 years. Strategic objective 1 is: 'To address population decline and ensure a healthy, balanced population profile'.

1.4 In order to address this objective, the 2021 SNP Manifesto set out a number of policy commitments related to supporting island populations, including the proposal to introduce an 'Islands Bond', described as follows:

'We will establish an Islands Bond – offering 100 bonds of up to £50,000 to young people and families to stay in or to move to islands currently threatened by depopulation. The bonds will support people to buy homes, start businesses and otherwise make their lives for the long term in these communities.'

1.5 The aims of the proposed Bond are to address key financial barriers for individuals wishing to remain in or move to an island community, while also stimulating the local economy and promoting economic, environmental and social progress.

1.6 This manifesto commitment provided the broad framework for the development of an Islands Bond by the Scottish Government. However, the Scottish Government was keen to ensure the design and implementation of the Bond was informed by the views of relevant parties (individuals and groups). A public consultation was therefore launched in August 2021 to provide an opportunity for all interested parties – and especially those living on islands – to help shape the detail of the proposed Bond.

1.7 The Scottish Government's Programme for Government 2021–22, published subsequently in September 2021 stated that the Islands Bond would be launched in summer 2022. Notably, the Programme for Government referred to the bonds being potentially available to 'households' and 'people' rather than just 'young people' and 'families'. This demonstrates the 'real time' evolving nature of the Scottish Government's aspirations for the Islands Bond initiative.

The consultation

1.8 The consultation paper, Islands Bond: Consultation, set out brief background information on the issue of island depopulation, and the role of the proposed Islands Bond in addressing this. It outlined a number of matters for consideration in developing the detail of the Bond. These included understanding population challenges and the implications for different islands, determining how the Bond scheme might be implemented, and establishing processes for measuring its impact.

1.9 The paper contained 12 questions – comprising a mix of open and closed questions – addressing key issues related to the design and implementation of the proposed Islands Bond. The questions sought views on:

  • The proposed criteria for the Islands Bond (Q1)
  • Population challenges faced by island communities (Q3)
  • How the Bond might be targeted and what its priority focus might be (Q4–Q5)
  • The capital investment that might be provided via the Bond scheme (Q6)
  • The need for and role of an advisory service for those relocating to an island community, and the delivery of such a service (Q7–Q9)
  • The possible impact of the Bond scheme, including on those with protected characteristics (Q10–Q11).

1.10 For those living in island communities, Question 2 asked which island or island group they lived on. A final question (Question 12) asked for any other comments related to the proposed Islands Bond. [2]

1.11 Questions 3 and 4 were specifically targeted at current island residents and asked respondents for views based on experience 'in their area', while Question 10 was targeted at individuals with lived experience of, or organisations with experience of, challenges related to protected characteristics. [3]

1.12 The consultation paper was published on 2 August 2021 with a deadline of
25 October 2021 for comments. It was available via the Scottish Government's online consultation hub. Respondents could complete an online consultation questionnaire or submit an offline response by email or post.

1.13 In order to support the consultation and encourage responses, the Scottish Government held a series of engagement sessions with a range of organisations with an interest in the issues facing island communities – this included local authorities and other public bodies, as well as community membership organisations and third sector groups. These sessions were carried out between August and November 2021. (See Annex 1 for a complete list of sessions).

1.14 These sessions aimed to promote the consultation and provide an opportunity to discuss the proposed Islands Bond. They allowed the Scottish Government (i) to provide further information about the initiative and about other relevant policy work being undertaken to support island communities, and (ii) to hear views from people living in these communities. Ongoing engagement with island communities, together with the response to the consultation, will continue to inform policy development in this area.

1.15 Additionally, extensive press and media coverage – local, national, and international – following the launch of the consultation raised the profile of the Islands Bond. This coverage (and earlier coverage following the launch of the SNP manifesto) is likely to have had an impact on public understanding of the initiative and on the nature of the responses received (see Chapter 2 for details).

About the analysis

1.16 This report is based on a robust and systematic analysis of the responses to the consultation. Frequency analysis was undertaken in relation to all the closed questions, and the findings are shown in tables in this report.

1.17 Qualitative analysis was undertaken of the comments made in response to each question. The aim of this analysis was to identify the main themes and the full range of views expressed and to explore areas of agreement and disagreement among respondents.

1.18 Not all respondents answered every question, and some made comments in relation to a question without ticking a response at the relevant closed question. If a respondent's reply to the tick-box question was clearly stated in their written comments, the response to the tick-box question was imputed. The tables in this report include such imputed responses.

1.19 As with all consultations it is important to bear in mind that the views of those who have responded are not representative of the views of the wider population. Individuals (and organisations) who have a keen interest in a topic – and the capacity to respond – are more likely to participate in a consultation than those who do not. This self-selection means that the views of consultation participants cannot be generalised to the wider population.

1.20 For this reason, the approach to consultation analysis is primarily qualitative in nature. Its main purpose is not to identify how many people held particular views, but rather to understand the full range of views expressed.



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