A short research note from the James Hutton Institute offers a gloomy prediction for the future of Scotland’s remote areas. About half the country is sparsely populated, in the sense that it takes a journey of more than 30 minutes to reach places where 10,000 people live; large parts of the country are, more or less, wilderness. Low populations mean limited development, limited opportunities and limited services – schools, banks, supermarkets and fuel have to have a population base to justify their existence. The projected populations of the islands and Argyll and Bute are expected to fall by a third; the population of the Highlands is likely to fall by a quarter.
Lesley Riddoch offers a splendid piece in the National, crackling with ideas about the kinds of things that could be done to help remote areas. The article’s not helped by a headline that suggests a different kind of content, but Riddoch’s article points to to issues including energy, land ownership, housing, communications, and local governance. I know that some people will question whether human beings ought to be allowed into empty and wild spaces, but we need to question the wisdom of allowing half a country to wither away.