Islands Bond: consultation responses analysis

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

7. Demographic targeting

7.1 The consultation included a question (Question 4) asking those currently resident in an island community for their views about the under-represented demographics in their area that they felt should be targeted by the Islands Bond. Respondents were given eight choices and could select as many as they thought were relevant. [8] The choices were:

  • Age – young people
  • Age – working aged adults
  • Age – pensionable aged
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Ethnicity
  • Professions
  • Other

7.2 This chapter presents those views.

7.3 The findings are shown in Table 7.1 below. Note that some non-island respondents answered this question, but their responses have been excluded from this analysis. Thus, the analysis shown here is based only on the responses from island residents (and island-based organisations).

7.4 The key messages were that:

  • Of the 625 island respondents who answered this question, a large majority indicated that the Islands Bond should be targeted at working aged adults (71%) and / or young people (67%).
  • Just over a quarter (27%) thought the scheme should be targeted at professions and 8% thought it should be targeted at minority ethnic groups.
  • A small proportion (4%) saw pensionable-aged people as under-represented in the islands and / or a demographic that should be targeted; while 3% and 2% respectively thought gender and sex were demographics that the Bond should target.
  • Twelve percent (12%) of respondents answering this question chose 'Other'.
Table 7.1: Q4 – Are there any particular demographics under-represented in your area that you think the Islands Bond should target? (Island residents only)
Demographic category Number Percent*
Age – Working aged adults 446 71%
Age – Young people 418 67%
Professions 170 27%
Ethnicity 52 8%
Age – Pensionable aged 22 4%
Gender 18 3%
Sex 13 2%
Other 73 12%
Base 625

* Note that respondents could tick more than one option; therefore the percentages total more than 100%.

7.5 Respondents were asked to give the reasons for their views. [9] Note that some of those who answered the closed question indicated in their comments that they were not in favour of the Islands Bond proposal. Some of this group selected 'Other' in their response to the closed question; however, some also selected other options. A small number of respondents who were not in favour of the scheme also left the closed question blank and provided comments only in response to the question.

7.6 As the figures in the Table 7.1 indicate, most respondents thought that the Islands Bond should be targeted at two groups: (i) working-aged adults and (ii) young people. Approximately two-thirds of those who wanted to see a focus on professions also selected one or both of these groups.

7.7 The discussion below first summarises the reasons given by respondents for focusing on these three groups. It then goes on to consider the reasons given for targeting ethnicity, and then the three other demographic groups (pensionable-aged people, gender, and sex).

Focus on working-aged adults and young people

7.8 In general, respondents who thought the scheme should be targeted at either working-aged adults and young people gave similar reasons. These were that:

  • These groups are most in need of financial help in terms of purchasing / building a house or establishing a business.
  • These groups are most likely to have children and raise families on the islands.
  • A focus on these two groups would be most likely to redress the current imbalance in the demographic profile of the islands.

7.9 In relation to working-aged adults, respondents thought that this group was likely to have skills and to be in a position to contribute to island life. In relation to young people, there was a recurring view that this group is likely to be energetic, enthusiastic, open to change, and adaptable.

7.10 In relation to both these groups, the point was made repeatedly that many young people who leave the islands for education or employment would like to come back but cannot do so because of a lack of housing and jobs. These potential returners, and islanders on the verge of leaving, were seen to be the main groups to be targeted since, it was suggested, they are already familiar with island life and culture.

7.11 Some respondents suggested that people within specific age ranges should be targeted – either within the category of 'young people' or within the category of 'working-aged adults' – e.g. 20- to 40-year-olds, 21- to 35-year-olds, those under the age of 40, etc. However, there was little consensus among those who made these kinds of suggestions: starting ages ranged from 18 to 30, and the top of the age ranges varied from 30 to 45.

Focus on professions

7.12 Respondents often highlighted a shortage of key skills on the islands. In the opinion of respondents, targeting specific professional groups would provide the 'building blocks for more sustainable communities' while at the same time providing more diverse employment opportunities. However, the point was also repeatedly made that, in many areas, jobs for skilled professionals (particularly those working in health and social care, education, and trades) are available, but the cost of living and lack of housing makes it difficult to fill these jobs. One of the knock-on effects of this was that the local health board (and other local employers) must employ locums or temporary staff on high-cost short-term contracts.

7.13 The skills / types of professions most frequently identified as needed across all island groups were:

  • Nurses, doctors, dentists, allied health professions, emergency services (fire / ambulance), and laboratory staff
  • Carers and home helps
  • Teachers
  • Childcare providers
  • Those with trades – plumbers, electricians, joiners, builders, mechanics, heating / gas engineers, domestic appliance services, hairdressers, HGV drivers, etc.
  • Those with experience of community development work
  • People working in agriculture and those with experience of food manufacturing
  • Engineers
  • People working in technology, IT and other industries that are not location dependent (e.g. creative media, etc.) (however, it was noted that the lack of adequate digital infrastructure on the islands would need to be addressed to attract people with these skills)
  • People with sustainable environment skills – i.e. development of green energy, renewables, etc.
  • Musicians, artists, and craftspeople.

7.14 Less often, respondents also highlighted needs for veterinarians, lawyers, and accountants.

Focus on ethnicity

7.15 As Table 7.1 shows, 8% of respondents thought the bond should be targeted at 'ethnicity'. A common view among those who said this was that there was currently very little diversity in island communities. These respondents thought the scheme should seek to redress this demographic imbalance. Respondents were concerned that the lack of ethnic diversity in the islands did not reflect modern society, and they saw the following benefits from addressing this:

  • It would bring different perspectives to the islands and allow cultural exchange.
  • It would enrich local communities and bring about a greater openness and a 'wider range of outcomes'.
  • It would give islanders the opportunity to share their unique way of life with a greater range of people.

Focus on pension-aged people, gender, and sex

7.16 Less than 5% of respondents thought that pension-aged people, gender and sex were under-represented demographics in their area, which should be targeted by the Islands Bond scheme.

7.17 Respondents who selected these three options did not always explain why they did so. In some cases, their comments suggested that the selection of these options may have been made in error as the respondent gave reasons for supporting the targeting of young people or working-aged adults rather than reasons for targeting pension-aged people, gender and / or sex. Very occasionally, respondents who selected one or more of these three options also selected all (or most) of the other options too, arguing that the scheme should not target specific demographic groups (or it should not discriminate against certain groups) but instead should offer support to anyone who needs it if they have something to offer island communities.

7.18 Thus, there were only a very small number of respondents who selected these options and gave specific reasons for doing so.

7.19 The reasons given for targeting pension-aged people were as follows:

  • One respondent commented that older people have a lack of access to adaptable homes, or access to finance to make adaptations to suitable properties, and so they would benefit from the financial support available through the Bond scheme.
  • A second respondent noted that retired people living in the islands are often the group that may be holding on to croft land, but due to age and incapacity are no longer able to farm the land. Many have no succession plan in place and / or do not know how to navigate the complex legislation that would allow them to remain in their home whilst giving their land to someone younger to farm. The point was also made that costs can be incurred in making such a transfer of land, and an older retired person may need help with these costs – as well as the sort of advice and support that an advisory service may be able to offer. (See Chapter 11.)

7.20 It was not clear from the comments made in relation to 'gender' and 'sex' whether respondents were making a distinction between these two concepts. However, in every case, those who commented thought the Islands Bond scheme should provide support to women and girls. The following points were made:

  • Women are 'hugely under-represented' in senior positions, political life and businesses in the islands.
  • There is a very 'traditional' attitude towards employing women in the islands – women are more likely than men to be underpaid and to be working in part-time roles in shops or tourism. Even in public sector organisations (local authorities / NHS boards) senior roles are nearly always taken by men (either those already living in the islands, or by those coming from elsewhere. Local employers seldom offer flexible, family-friendly working arrangements to enable women to work in better-paid roles.
  • The primary industries in some islands (crofting and fishing) are dominated by men, and women / girls are discouraged from taking up jobs and roles still considered traditionally 'male'.

7.21 Respondents who raised these issues wanted the Islands Bond scheme to offer support and services targeted at women / mothers.

Possible 'other' demographic targets

7.22 Finally, respondents who selected 'other' in response to Question 4 expressed three main views:

  • The first was that the Islands Bond scheme was not a good solution to the problem of depopulation on the islands. (This view was also expressed by some respondents who selected specific demographic groups for targeting.)
  • The second main view was that the bonds should be given only to people who are already resident on the islands, or to those who previously grew up on the islands and would like to return. (This view was also expressed by some respondents who selected specific demographic groups for targeting.)
  • The third main view was that 'indigenous Gaels', 'fluent Gaelic speakers' or those 'making a commitment to Gaelic' should be prioritised over all others.



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