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Depopulation in Scotland’s Highlands and threat of new Clearances PiPa News

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Depopulation in Scotland’s Highlands and threat of new Clearances

Population growth in the Highlands between 2011 and 2022 is 1.4% – less than half of Scotland as a whole, while the Western Isles is expected to experience a 6% decline by 2028.

The Herald: Parts of the Highlands are experiencing 'rapid' population decline Parts of the Highlands are experiencing ‘rapid’ population decline (Photo: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

The number of over 75s in the Highlands has increased by 60.% during this period, the general aging population and the attractiveness of the area as a retirement destination.

Further light can be shed on the weight of the situation by secondary roll forecasts which predict a 12.5% ​​reduction over the next 15 years if Inverness is removed from the equation.

The school in Kinlochbervie in north west Sutherland has capacity for 182 pupils but currently has 33 children and numbers are predicted to drop to 21 by 2032.

Today, The Herald launches a new series that gets to the heart of the issues and challenges holding back population growth in the Highlands and Islands.

We travel to areas identified as most at risk to hear from communities best placed to explain the challenges of rural life in modern-day Scotland.

The Herald: Fort William was promised a new hospital in 2002 Fort William was promised a new hospital in 2002 (Photo: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

Our series will also include exclusive interviews with politicians and policy makers and leading voices on demographic change taking on transport, housing, health, connectivity and education, all key to population resilience. .

A leading industry figure said the severity of the situation “is not being recognized by the movers and shakers of the Central Belt”.

Let’s examine what is seen as wrong with government and local authority policy.

The New Highland Clearance – Day One:

A plan to pay people to move to the islands was later abandoned by the Scottish Government as islanders said proposals to ban fishing in 10% of Scottish waters (later rejected) more proof that policy makers are not listening.

The Highland Council said in its December report that the latest census figures suggest that the Scottish Government’s efforts to halt population decline have had little effect in terms of reversing the current trajectory. and doing more of the same is unlikely to yield a different result.

The local authority is funded per head of population but says its service provision is more expensive than other areas due to the geographical expanse of its authority area.

In today’s coverage, we travel to Kinlochleven, in Lochaber, a village still feeling the effects of the loss of one of Scotland’s last remaining aluminum smelters 23 years ago.

The Herald:

However, nothing is clear about their status. The village benefits greatly from tourism but this itself presents challenges which are explored in detail in a long read article.

We also hear from an academic who has returned home to the Highlands with his family and says his move means putting his career ambitions on hold.

Later in the series Professor David Bell, a demography expert, will argue that renewables are seen as a huge opportunity for the Highlands but will never create many jobs for local people.

SNP MSP Kate Forbes says housing is the single biggest issue holding back population growth. In our exclusive interview tomorrow he shares his thoughts on a legislative change he believes will help reverse the population decline.

The Herald: Kae Forbes, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch is interviewed by Herald reporter Caroline WilsonKae Forbes, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch is interviewed by Herald reporter Caroline Wilson (Photo: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

We will also hear from his political opponents including Labour’s Rhoda Grant who has come up with her own solution to help tackle the housing shortage.

Tomorrow’s coverage will also focus on mothers who are refusing more babies in a part of the Highlands that has been severely reduced due to the provision of maternity services.

Later this week will hear from the villagers of the community that made history who took matters into their own hands when they were told that their main was threatened with closure.

In 2018 a Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) survey of young people found that for the first time, many young people want to stay in their hometowns after school but this depends on decent jobs with possibilities, having a nice and affordable place to stay, and digital connectivity.

“Changing population trends will require moving heaven and earth to retain more young people and attract young people and families to move in by focusing on making rural Highland the best place to be.” to live, work and play for people their age,” said David Richardson, development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in the Highlands and Islands.

The Herald: 'All voices must be heard - not just the powerful few'‘All voices must be heard – not just the powerful few’ (Photo: FSB)

“It’s about the right price of accommodation of the right kind in the right places; decent transport and digital links; childcare facilities and schools; leisure facilities; and so on.”

He said the staff shortage affecting many businesses in the Highlands has become a crisis, and has damaged businesses and the region’s reputation as a tourism destination, a major employer.

“Quite simply, there are too many job vacancies chasing too few job seekers,” Mr Richardson said.

“In August 2016, an FSB survey of Skye businesses found that a third were understaffed, and we think that’s not good. short-staffed by 2022, with around 8 in 10 needing to be reduce hours, services or both as a result.

He mentioned that a leading hotelier will not be able to serve lunches in his hotels this year because they need to focus staff resources on resident guests.

“Visitors come to the Highlands to enjoy world-class scenery, natural and cultural heritage and activities, and they expect to find businesses open and providing good service wherever they go,” he said.

“If the operators can’t do it because there is no staff to recruit, it will not only harm their income and local economy now, but the big fear is that it will reduce the desire of visitors to return in the future, and to recommend the Highlands. as a vacation destination for others.”

He said community development is important, and the more vulnerable a community is the more important it is.

“However, ‘community’ means everything,” he added. “It’s not just a few loud voices with powerful interests. All views need to be considered.”

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