Population boom as thousands flock to Scottish islands

 

They’re some of the most remote parts of the British Isles, presenting challenges to simple everyday life posed by nowhere else in the UK – just as George Orwell learnt in Jura 60 years ago.

In the modern age, with more people moving to cities, you might think places such as Shetland, Orkney and Harris would be struggling to maintain their populations. Think again.

Open air, an untouched landscape and an abundance of wildlife are just some of the reasons why thousands of people have moved to the islands of Scotland in the past decade.

Offering a very different lifestyle even to mainland parts of Scotland, the Outer Hebrides and other northern isles are flourishing according to recent census statistics released by the Office of National Statistics – with the number of residents rising from 99,739 people in 2001 to 103,702 people in 2011.

Russ Madge, a local councillor on the island who is a father of three and works for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, moved to Orkney from East Sussex in 2002. He isn’t surprised that more have followed his lead.

“It was a family decision. We came here on holiday and loved it,” he said. “It’s a great place to live, fantastic opportunities, good education for the kids... It’s all about the freedom for the children. The kids love playing on their bikes outside.”

There’s employment for them too, he says. “There’s a lot of stuff going on with marine renewables here.”

The rise has not been consistent across the Western Isles with places such as Arran, Bute and Islay experiencing a drop in their population.

In some areas, the difficulties of everything from buying food and supplies to reaching the nearest hospital are proving too much. But Shetland has also lured in newcomers.

Morgan Blanch and her husband Patrick moved there in March this year, and now own the Maryfield House Hotel on Bressay. Originally from Vancouver, Ms Blanch says: “Patrick and I were talking one day and we found that it was both our dream to live in the countryside or even a small island.

“We had moved to Edinburgh from Canada last October and liked the city because it was a short travelling distance to the countryside. One night in March this year we saw the TV advert with the dancing Shetland pony and both our hearts sank because we both fell in love with the island right then.”

“So two days later we packed our bags and headed to Shetland. The way of life here, the beauty and the peacefulness of it made us want to stay. We were looking over from the larger part of the Shetland and saw this beautiful hotel and thought ‘That is our dream home’. Surprisingly when we went to visit it the next day it was for sale.”

Maurice Irvan, 24, manager of Captain’s Flint pub in Shetland adds: “We notice it in the pub and profits are increasing, so that is a good thing. I think our history in Shetland, the fact that most of the land has been untouched so we still have our Shetland ponies and flowers take people back to the basics. There are quite a few ages moving here, not just the older retired generation.

“I was speaking to a couple the other day that moved here – they bought a hotel and want to raise a family here on the Island”.

A piece of peace

103,702 The number of people living on the islands at the 2011 census, the most recent survey

2 The percentage of the national population that  the Scottish  island-dwellers make up

47,103 The number of homes on Scotland’s inhabited islands

250 New island jobs created by the marine renewables industry

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Case Handler

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Case Handler is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Sales Apprentice

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £20,000 - £60,000

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Team Leader

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence