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Community / Minister seeks to speak to islanders about depopulation

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Emma Roddick.

HIGHLANDS and Islands MSP Emma Roddick is calling on islanders and local businesses to get in touch with her to discuss depopulation and what needs to be done to reverse the trend.

It comes on the back of the Scottish Government’s action plan to address depopulation which was published last month.

As the minister for equalities, migration and refugees, the issue of depopulation is part of the SNP MSP’s portfolio.

She said she is very much aware of the issues of young folk being unable to stay locally, employers struggling to hire, and the problems that a decreasing working-age population creates.

“It’s something that dominates conversation in Shetland as a local MSP, folk will tell you about the cost of housing in Lerwick – comparable to Edinburgh and Skye prices for purchase or private rent – and how that means that young people are living at home far longer than they want to,” she said.

“This is something that is pushing people out of the isles or preventing them from returning.”

Shetland’s population has been stayed static at around 23,000 for many years with the lack, and the cost, of housing regularly mentioned as the main obstacle for people to move north despite hundreds of job vacancies.

Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting of the council’s development committee, director of development Neil Grant said it was “disappointing” that population figures appeared to be “stuck” at 23,000 “given the opportunities here.”

Roddick told Shetland News that she is due to receive more localised census data which will give insight about where people are moving within island authorities.

“This data will inform future work on depopulation, but what that data cannot tell us is why this is happening,” she said.

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“I would love to hear more from Shetlanders about the drivers of depopulation that they’ve faced, and what they think should be done about it.

“I’ve never felt that leaving home for university or work experience is inherently a bad thing; sometimes you need to see for yourself that the grass is not necessarily greener, and know where you feel most at home.

“But when people are unable to return to the isles when that’s where they want to be, it’s a problem.”

She can be contacted via e-mail Emma.Roddick.MSP@Parliament.scot or her website here.

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