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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works