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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Calls for Proactive Government Response to Population Decline 

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Scotland’s 2022 Census, shows a significant decrease in the population of the Western Isles, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is calling for Government to respond

Key figures from the 2022 Census:

  • Estimated population in the Outer Hebrides is 26,200 (rounded to nearest hundred).  This is a 5.5% (-1,500 persons) decrease since the 2011 Census (27,684) and the highest percentage decrease in Scotland.
  • The Outer Hebrides has the 3rd highest percentage of those aged 65+ at 26.6% (Argyll & Bute highest at 27.2%) while the Outer Hebrides has the 4th lowest percentage of those in the 15-64 age group (Dumfries and Galloway lowest at 58.7%) and the 4th lowest of those in the 0-14 age group at 14.1% (Argyll & Bute lowest at 13.6%)
  • Response rate in the Outer Hebrides was the highest in Scotland at 94.2% whilst the nation return was 89%.

The Census results quantify the significant challenges currently facing employers, the third sector and support service providers in the Western Isles.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is working closely with these partners to stem population decline and encourage economic growth.

Cllr Paul Steele, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said:

“It’s been clear for a number of years that the demographic make up and the population figures of the Western Isles are heading in the wrong direction.

“We need more working age people living here, raising children in our communities and to encourage them Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has been working hard alongside partner agencies to create opportunities for people to do that.

“Work on housing, employability, economic development and education are all ongoing and give plenty of reason for people to remain in the Western Isles, return following a period away or move here to contribute to our Islands.”

“A study conducted by HIE in 2018 indicated that 60% of individuals from the Western Isles aged 15-30 saw themselves living in the area in 10 years time.

“However, these young people and the population of the Western Isles as a whole are not being supported in their commitment because of unreliable transport links to the mainland, a cost of living higher than the national average, failures to roll out superfast broadband connections and high energy costs, which threaten to negate all the good work that is being done.

“If we are to encourage individuals to live in the Western Isles and stem population decline we need to see real commitment and support from the Scottish and UK Governments on these key issues.

“This is the only way that this alarming trend of decline can be steadied, it cannot be tackled by local organisations alone.”

“To start with we will look to engage with the Scottish Government to encourage the dispersal of key jobs out of Edinburgh.

“The population rise in the central belt presents the Scottish Government with challenges.

“The Scottish Government should take proactive steps and place elements of Marine Scotland, Transport Scotland and CalMac in the Outer Hebrides.”

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