In the last parliament, the SNP delivered the Islands Act, giving specific legal rights to Scotland’s islands to ensure that the government works with and for our island communities.
Over the next five years, we will invest at least £30 million in a specific programme to invest in island infrastructure and support a green recovery.
To help stem depopulation, 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.
We know ferries provide a truly lifeline service for the islands they serve, and are committed to funding these services and maintaining Road Equivalent Tariff on all current island ferry routes. We will deliver an Islands Connectivity Plan to replace the current Ferries Plan looking at aviation, ferries and fixed links, and connecting and onward travel.
We are explore the potential to build more fixed links to island and remote communities and working with island communities to reduce reliance on ferries.
We remain committed to introducing the Air Departure Tax when a solution to the Highlands and Islands exemption issue has been found.
We will continue our work to pilot low or zero emission planes between Scotland’s islands.
We will expand the Islands Passport to encourage more people to visit more of our islands, promoting more off season visiting and creating more equitable benefit for communities.
By the end of 2022, 16 new subsea fibre cables will have been laid to Scottish islands. We will use this to support the creation of gigabit islands with full 5G services and connectivity from mobile providers, testing the concept on 8 islands in 4 local authority areas.
Over the course of this Parliament, on top of the 11 already built, we will invest £25 million to install at least 39 masts to provide mobile coverage in remote rural and island communities.
And we will support Carbon Neutral Islands, which would be in the vanguard of reaching net zero emissions targets by 2045. This would include pilots for some islands to run on 100% renewable energy, to create circular economies tackling and processing waste, and exploring more sustainable transport options.
We will work with at least 3 islands over this Parliament to enable them to become fully carbon neutral by 2040.