Positive signs that population decline could be reversed are being seen in island communities, according to a consortium of researchers.
An Islands Revival Declaration published yesterday (Tuesday September 17th) gives examples of population growth in Scottish islands which go against ideas that island populations are in decline.
Collaboration between the James Hutton Institute, Scotland's Rural College, Community Development Lens (CoDeL) and Community Land Scotland, with input from over 20 island stakeholders led to the declaration being formulated during a two-day workshop at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye at the end of August, when 33 participants discussed the findings of the current research.
It follows an islands revival blog, launched in May, which gathered information on positive projects in which young people were involved. Examples contributed included the work of Pairc Playgroup in Lewis, the West Harris Trust and Galson Estate Trust.
Yesterday’s declaration says:“We affirm that there is credible evidence of ‘green shoots’ of population turnaround in the Scottish islands, which as yet does not show up in official statistics.
“This is illustrated by a number of examples of population growth in islands, such as those cited in the Islands Revival blog.
“It is supported by the changing perceptions of younger, economically active people, especially out-migrant islanders, who increasingly consider their birthplace as a place to return to, and at an earlier stage in their lives. Connectivity (especially social media) is playing an important role in popularising this attitude.”
The statement goes on to list contributing factors to this changed perception, including local control of territorial assets (land and marine), accompanied by good governance, and strong community leadership.
They also credit increasing interest, among many young people, in exploring enterprising ways of living and the use of media in promoting role models and success stories.
And they conclude: “The above seem to be, collectively, delivering a gradual but clear shift in the consensus about the balance between the advantages and disadvantages of living on islands versus those of living in or near a city.”