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MSP calls for action to tackle population decline

Rhoda Grant MSP.

Highlands and Islands MSP, Rhoda Grant, has called for greater government intervention, in order to tackle the long-lasting challenges that COVID-19 could pose to populations in the region.

The Scottish Government established its Population Taskforce in June 2019, to consider Scotland’s future population challenges, including reversing population decline in remote and rural areas. Ms Grant is calling for the taskforce to meet more often, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Labour MSP, since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Scotland in March this year, the Taskforce has only met once, and may not meet again until January 2021.

Ms Grant said: “The Highlands and Islands face the greatest challenges anywhere in Scotland due to population decline and an ageing population.  The economic impact of COVID-19 to the region with the loss of many jobs in rural and remote areas linked to hospitality and tourism, has the potential to speed up depopulation.

“The Scottish Government Population Task Force has to step up a gear if it’s to rise to the challenges and opportunities posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and communities need to see urgent action taken as soon as possible, simply to stand still.

“Local campaign groups like Misneachd on the Western Isles have already made calls for the introduction of controls on second homes for example to let young people onto the housing ladder and help them stay on the islands. It’s radical policy solutions like this that we need to see in place if we want to tackle population decline in the long term.

“If the Scottish Government and it’s Population Taskforce are serious about supporting the Highlands and Islands, they must commit to more regular meetings, a widening of their remit to look at the additional challenges and opportunities created by COVID-19 and start taking action right now to secure the future of our region.”