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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Council to Consider The Impacts of Depopulation and Demographic Change in The Highlands 

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Population trends for the Highland area show an on-going pattern of increase in the urban areas around the Inner Moray Firth, as well as a drift of people away from the western Highlands, Sutherland and Caithness areas.

Results from Scotland’s Census 2022 were released on 14 September 2023, which show a 5.2% increase in over 65’s in Highland over the past 10 years.

While an ageing population is a national trend, Highland’s increase compares with a 3.3% increase across Scotland.

Between 2001 and 2021, the 0 to 15 age group in Highland saw a decrease of -6.7%, while the 75+ age group saw an increase of +60.6%.

The impact of the changing demographics is felt on a number of services with challenges in meeting the care and housing needs of communities across Highland.

Our ageing population creates pressures on the adult social care services and there is a lack of available housing supply, including housing suitable to meet the needs of an ageing population, which creates challenges in sustaining and growing populations in rural areas.

Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, David Fraser said:

“Delivering Social Care Services in the Highlands and Islands is particularly challenging at the current time, with care home sustainability, workforce challenges and delivering person centred care at home.

“In Highland there is a clear need to shift the balance of care from residential provision and enabling people to stay within their communities.”

Leader of the Council Raymond Bremner said:

“Issues around social care, access to affordable housing, transport, quality employment and the availability of skilled workers, together with decreasing local government funding, are all interconnected factors in the depopulation crisis facing rural Scotland.

“There are however a number of opportunities throughout Highland to ensure long term sustainability, with developments in renewable energy of all types, and the continued importance of the tourism sector.

“These are all key areas that require a joined up approach to retaining and attracting population to the region, working with partners.”

Convener, Bill Lobban concluded:

“The Highland Council’s Programme addresses a number of priorities, aimed at supporting sustainable communities, revitalising town centres and reflecting the critical role housing plays in sustaining communities and promoting economic growth.

“The Council will do everything in our power to prevent this depopulation cliff-edge and our young people having to move away from the Highlands.”

The Highland Council is engaging in the Scottish Government’s consultation on its forthcoming Addressing Depopulation Action Plan, which has a range of socio-economic considerations within it.

As part of the consultation process, the Leader wrote to the Scottish Government, setting out the major challenge that is presented in sustaining communities in the context of decreasing local government funding.

Members at the Highland Council meeting were asked to agree further planning on a comprehensive response to the Scottish Government Action Plan.

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