Scottish Government unveils plan to combat population decline in rural regions

Editorial Staff

Shortage of affordable housing in island and Highland communities continues to worsen.

The Scottish Government has released a comprehensive plan designed to combat population decline in rural and island areas, through a series of targeted initiatives and funding.

The Addressing Depopulation Action Plan is set to address the projected decrease in Scotland’s population from 2033, with a particular focus on fourteen local authority areas expected to experience a decline in the next decade. The plan underscores the Scottish Government’s commitment to encouraging people to live, work, and raise families in these affected locales.

Central to this strategy is the establishment of a £180,000 Addressing Depopulation Fund, aimed at assisting three local authorities that are particularly impacted by population decline. These authorities will trial innovative methods to retain and attract residents to their communities, with specific projects slated to be announced later this year.

Additionally, the Scottish Government has provided part-funding this financial year for Community Settlement Officers in Argyll & Bute, Highland, and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. These officers play a crucial role in supporting current and prospective residents in these areas. The funding will continue into the next financial year and will also include support for establishing a similar role in Inverclyde.

Dumfries and Galloway Council will receive a £30,000 grant to investigate the causes behind local population decline, a step that will inform future policy measures.

Migration Minister Emma Roddick, speaking at the Nevis Centre in Fort William, highlighted the complexity of the factors leading to depopulation, emphasizing that each area is affected uniquely. Roddick pointed out that the plan spans various government policy areas, including housing, healthcare, transport, and education, to create tailored solutions for each area.

“This plan commits to leveraging community expertise and backing a range of local-led initiatives,” Roddick said. “It is not only about benefiting the places leading these projects but also about creating learning opportunities that can be applied elsewhere.”

In the context of the Highland region’s population challenges, the Scottish salmon industry emerges as a critical economic pillar. Annually, fresh Scottish salmon contributes more than £500 million to the UK retail fish market, accounting for 48% of the total market. This dominance in the fish sector also extends to international markets, with salmon being the UK’s most valuable food export to over 50 countries annually.

Crucially, the salmon sector’s contribution to the Highland economy is significant, injecting over £760 million each year. It also plays a pivotal role in supporting regional employment and businesses, spending £370 million with more than 3,600 suppliers across Scotland. In a region grappling with population decline and aging demographics, the direct employment of over 2,500 people in salmon farming is invaluable.


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