Action urged to halt population decline

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Lochaber News & The Oban Times

COMHAIRLE nan Eilean Siar has called for more action at a national level to reverse the projected population decline in the Outer Hebrides in years to come.

The 2014-based projections predict a severe decline in the population of the Outer Hebrides of 13.7 per cent. This is more severe than the previous projections, which indicated a decrease of 11.3 per cent. The population of the Outer Hebrides is projected to decrease from 27,250 in 2014 to 23,515 in 2039.

The population of the Outer Hebrides is projected to decline by 13.7 per cent over the period 2014-2039, the largest percentage projected decline in Scotland, compared to eight per cent in Argyll and Bute and 12 per cent in Inverclyde.

The decline is steepest in the 0-15 years age group at 28 per cent, followed by a 21 per cent decline in the working age population – the largest percentage decline along with Inverclyde – and an 11 per cent increase in those of pensionable age.

The projections come as the comhairle is preparing for a population conference involving community planning partners on November 7 and 8.

Comhairle leader Angus Campbell said: ‘Population decline is the biggest threat facing our islands and action must be taken to stop and reverse the decline in numbers and the demographic imbalance.

‘That is why we have been campaigning through the Our Islands Our Future campaign for more powers for the islands so that we can do more to shore up our populations. The comhairle is doing everything in its power to make our islands an attractive place to live and work but we need more assistance from government at a UK and Scottish level to turn our aspirations into reality.

‘Issues such as realising the renewable energy potential – which is dependent on a new interconnector – and control over the Crown Estate revenues and management will help give us the tools to do the job.

‘Otherwise our people will continue to be forced to leave the islands to seek work and we will be left with an increasingly elderly population and the stresses that puts on services in an ever more challenging financial climate.

‘That is why we are calling together our partners in the community planning partnership for a conference next week. We are pulling together at a local level and I hope that our ongoing discussions and work with government at a Scottish and UK level will enable us to support the regeneration of our communities.