In August 2013 I wrote about the results of the Scottish Census, held in 2011. Some areas in Scotland as well as some of the Islands on the west coast saw an increase in population while Islay saw a decline. A quote from the article: "Quite in contrast with some of the other islands, the population of Islay has dropped almost 7%, from 3,457 to 3,228. The number of resident households were 1541 ten years ago and it is now 1479 (Figures in table A4). This is not the total number of houses on Islay, this is the number of houses that are lived in all year round. Holiday homes and second homes are not part of this figure."
Although more houses are being built on Islay, which will give more families a chance to settle on the island, it looks like it is not enough. There still is a shortage in affordable housing which is probably one of the reasons the population won't grow. On the other hand there are the holiday homes for the tourists and then there are the second homes which are sometimes only lived in during the summer. Some of the villages are becoming very dark and empty in the winter. These fragile communities badly need new families to revert this process. However, there might be some light at the end of the tunnel as it now seems that the council will give the decline of population a higher priority in their programme for the next years: Continue reading...
Jamie McGrigor, Highlands & Islands Conservative MSP, has tabled a Motion on tackling the projected population decline in Argyll & Bute. He hopes it may be the subject of a Member’s debate in the Scottish Parliament in the coming weeks or months. Commenting, Mr McGrigor said, 'I hope my motion and possible Member’s debate on this subjectwill help keep the focus on what is a very real challenge facing Argyll & Bute and will allow us also to highlight the many attributes our area has.'
McGrigor’s Motion draws attention to the data published in May 2014 by the National Records of Scotland that predicted that Argyll and Bute’s population will fall by 13.5% by 2037, the second largest projected decline of any local authority in Scotland, with the working age population predicted to fall by almost 22% and asks the Scottish Parliament to share local concerns about the impact on the local economy and public services of such a steep decline in population.
The Motion puts forward the view that policy makers at all levels should treat as a priority tackling and reversing the projected population decline and looking at new ways of supporting the area and boosting its economic growth, while promoting Argyll and Bute as a diverse, attractive and first-class location for residents, visitors and businesses alike. McGrigor’s Motion has been tabled at a particularly apposite time; the latest statistics show a marked decline in the number of births on Islay in the last five years.￼
Ileach Comment on Islay’s declining population
Official Islay population figures for the years 2009 to 2013 make gloomy reading. In each of these years deaths have outstripped births on the island. In the five year period there have been 200 deaths while there were only 96 births.
By 2018 the total intake of pupils into all four Islay primary schools will be less than the numbers in one class in a city school. By the time all the children identified in these statistics go to secondary school, Islay High’s total school roll will be under one hundred. This was roughly the intake to one year in the early eighties.
If this trend continues the effect on the island’s economy and the well-being of its residents could be catastrophic. While not wishing to get into the geese versus people debate, it is true to say that when it was recognised that the goose population was declining to a dangerous level, minds were focused and plans were put into action to reverse the decline with great success. We should expect no less of a focus to halt the decline in the human population of Islay: what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, as the saying goes.
Argyll and Bute Council are aware of the problems which result from a declining population. In their Single Objective Agreement (SOA) document they say, 'The projected decline in total population is a real threat to the viability of the area with a potential to adversely impact on the economy/wealth creation, workforce availability and efficient service delivery.'
The overall objective of the SOA for the ten years to 2023 is: 'Argyll and Bute’s economic success is built on a growing population.' Fine words indeed but the folks of Islay expect to see tangible efforts to halt the decline in the population of our island.