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Western Isles Transitional Programme Strategy

Western Isles Transitional Programme Strategy

Appendix 1

BASELINE INDICATORS & STRATEGIC ISSUES

Introduction

The following section discusses a range of baseline indicators that form the background to the Western Isles Transitional Programme Strategy for 2000 to 2006 and identifies strategic issues.

Relative Prosperity

The MacAulay Land Use Research Institute (MLURI) Western Isles Regional Accounts study shows the Western Isles economy has grown somewhat from the previous assessment in 1988/89 but still lags significantly behind neighbouring regions and the UK. The value of the Western Isles regional economy (GRDP) is estimated (at 1997) to be £221 million, or £7,827 (per capita). This represents 65% of the average UK GDP (£12,054 per capita) and is significantly lower than Orkney (£10,618) and Shetland (£12,853) and also lower than the Highlands and Islands average (£8,308) (MLURI, 1999).

The study shows the Western Isles economy has a large trade deficit of £98 million. This is due to the Western Isles importing a higher value of goods and services than it exports. In comparison to 1988/89, the study suggests that both the level of imports and exports has increased. Taken in conjunction with an increase in the importance of tourism, the Western Isles economy has become more dependent on economic influences beyond its territory (MLURI, 1999).

The Incomes Study for the Highlands and Islands 1998, shows that (in aggregate) incomes in the Western Isles are slightly lower than that in the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) area. However, outwith the public sector and other services, wage rates are significantly lower than in the HIE area. This is most notable in the agriculture, manufacturing, food and retail sectors (table 1).

The population of the Western Isles has fallen steadily during this century (figure 1). The General Register Office for Scotland mid-1999 population estimate for the Western Isles population is 27,560. Over the period 1991 to 1999 this represents a decline of 6%, which may be partly explained by a population with a relatively poor deaths to births ration and out-migration (table 2). Overall migration in the 1990’s masks a very higher rate of young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 leaving the islands (source GROs).

Table 1 Estimated Average Earnings per Employee in the Western Isles and HIE 1996

Sector

£ per employee Western Isles

£ per employee HIE area

Average Total Earnings Western Isles £ 000’s

% Contribution to Western Isles GDP

Agriculture

2,813

11,144

3,018

3.1%

Forestry

10,800

12,591

54

0.1%

Fishing

13,387

14,334

13,682

14.9%

Energy & Water Supply

17,575

20,998

1,775

1.8%

Food, Drink & Tobacco

8,347

10,877

2,070

1.5%

Engineering

14,897

17,413

7,300

5.3%

Other manufacturing

5,547

12,544

4,049

2.8%

Construction

11,774

12,805

12,693

11.1%

Wholesale & Retail

8,463

10,419

12,881

9.7%

Hotels & Catering

4,238

4,390

3,480

2.5%

Finance & Business Services

11,639

11,613

7,100

8.2%

Public Sector Administration

14,352

12,007

49,802

30.3%

Other Services

12,522

9,367

11,270

8.7%

Total All Sectors

£10,720

£10,839

£129,043

100%

Population Change Chart
(Source: Incomes Study for the Highlands and Islands October 1998)

(Source: General Register Office for Scotland) Note the 1999 figure is an estimate

Table 2 Components of Population Change 1991 to 1999

Area

Estimated

Natural

Estimated ¹

Estimated

Population Change

 

population

change

net civilian

Other ²

population

Number

%

 

30 June 1991

 

migration

changes

30 June 1999

 

 

SCOTLAND

5,107,000

3,240

15,968

-7,008

5,119,200

12,200

0.2%

Western Isles

29,400

-1,068

-502

-270

27,560

-1,840

-6.3%

(Source: General Register Office for Scotland) 1991 population figure is mid year estimate.

  1. Includes movements to/from armed forces.
  2. Includes changes in the number of armed forces stationed in Scotland.

In the period between 1991 and 1999 the population of the Western Isles has increased its share of the older population whilst numbers in the younger age bands have decreased (table 3). Alongside population change, the Western Isles School Roll continues to decline (figure 2).

Table 3 Western Isles Population by Age Group 1991 -1999

Age Group

Western Isles 1991 %

Western Isles 1999 %

0-4

6.1

5.2

5-19

20.8

19.4

20-44

32.3

30.8

45-64

22.4

25.9

65-84

16.2

16.3

85+

2.2

2.5

(Source: General Register Office for Scotland)

School Roll Chart(Source CnES: 1999)

The General Register Office for Scotland 1998 based population projections predict that, within the Highlands and Islands, the Western Isles is set to suffer the greatest population decrease to the year 2016 (table 4). The projected population of the Western Isles for the year 2016 is 23,980. This represents a decline of 13% from 2000-2016. This percentage drop is significantly higher than in the Highlands and Islands and nationally (table 4). The Western Isles population is set to reduce its share of younger persons and increase the proportion of elderly (table 5).

Table 4 Projected Population 2000-2016

Council Area

2000

2016

% Change 2000 to 2016

Western Isles

27,473

23,980

-12.7%

Orkney

19,534

18,887

-3.3%

Shetland

22,850

23,133

+1.2%

Highland

208,488

208,496

0%

Scotland

5,110,853

5,077,588

-0.7%

(Source: General Register Office for Scotland, 1998 based population projections)

Table 5 Age Group Projections for the Western Isles 2000 to 2016

Age Group

2000 Population

% of Population 2000

2016 Population

% of Population 2016

Change 2000 to 2016 (persons)

Age 0-15

5,044

18.4%

3,552

14.8%

-1,492

Age 16-24

2,953

10.7%

1,925

8%

-1,028

Age 25-64

14,363

52.3%

12,624

52.6%

-1,739

Age 65+

5,113

18.6%

5,879

24.5%

+766

(Source: General Register Office for Scotland, 1998 based population projections)

Unempoyment Rates Chart

Over recent years the unemployment rate in the Western Isles has been consistently well above that of both the HIE unemployment rate and Scottish figures (figure 3).

(Source Nomis, 2000)

The strategic issue that flows from the above discussion of the relative prosperity of the Western Isles is:

How best to increase the incomes and prosperity of the Western Isles relative to the performance of the Highlands and Islands, Scotland and the European Union.

Social & Economic Disparities

The change in resident population from 1981 to 1991 by island area illustrates the severity of population change in particular areas (table 6). The most significant population decrease was in Harris, with a fall of 11% of the population in that period. Furthermore, examining population change at statistical area level (table 7) indicates that many of the smaller areas in the Western Isles have suffered population decline at a rate much higher than the Western Isles average.

Table 6 Western Isles Resident Population Change 1981 to 1991

Area

Total 1991

Change 1981 - 1991

% Change 1981 - 1991

Lewis

20159

-561

-3%

Harris

2,222

-267

-11%

North Uist

1,815

+12

1%

Benbecula

1,803

-84

-4%

South Uist

2,285

-147

-6%

Barra & Vatersay

1,316

-55

-4%

(Source: General Register Office for Scotland)

A composite index based on the performance of ‘Statistical Areas’ against the Western Isles average using the 1991 census indicators has been constructed (table 8). The indicators chosen were: population change from 1971 to 1991; population change from 1981 to 1991; the proportion of the population aged up to 15 years old (1991); the proportion of population aged 65 years and over (1991); economic activity rates (1991); and unemployment rate (1991). The results illustrate that, based on the census indicators, the most fragile areas in the Western Isles are: Pairc (statistical area 4.3), Kinlochroag to Brenish (2.4), Meavag Bays to Likisto (5.3), Port of Ness to Swainbost (1.1), Geocrab to Lingerbay (5.5), Dalmore to Tolsta Chaolais (2.1).

In addition, any assessment must also consider that a number of more recent circumstances are not picked up from the census indicators. The impact of major structural change to local areas have to be considered. Such cases involve: the wind down of RAF activity at the Range in Benbecula; the collapse of the seaweed industry in the Western Isles; the downturn in weaving activity, particularly felt in the west side of Lewis; and the impact of the closure of Lewis Offshore Limited.

Another factor is the designation of four areas in the Western Isles, Uig & Bernera, Bays of Harris, Lochboisdale and Eriskay, within the Government’s ‘Iomairt Aig an Oir’ Initiative, designed for fragile remote communities.

Table 7 Resident Population Decline by Statistical Area 1981 to 1991 (ranked)

Statistical Area

1981

1991

% Change 1981 to 1991

Island Area

8.3 Vatersay

107

72

-32.7

Barra

6.2 Lochmaddy to Achmore

483

391

-19.0

North Uist

7.6 Kilpheder to South Glendale

605

504

-16.7

South Uist

5.2 Scalpay

455

382

-16.0

Harris

2.3 Linshader to Gt Bernera

495

416

-16.0

Lewis

7.5 Daliburgh to Lochboisdale

699

598

-14.4

South Uist

1.1 Port of Ness to Swainbost

1004

861

-14.2

Lewis

5.1 Aline to Kendibeg

916

795

-13.2

Harris

1.3 Galson to Ballantrushal

741

651

-12.1

Lewis

5.3 Meavag Bays to Likisto

299

263

-12.0

Harris

4.3 Sheildinish to Lemreway

498

441

-11.4

Lewis

7.7 Eriskay

201

179

-10.9

South Uist

4.2 Soval Lodge to Airidhbhruaich

601

536

-10.8

Lewis

1.6 Shawbost to Dalbeg

565

506

-10.4

Lewis

6.3 Grenitote to Griminish

183

165

-9.8

North Uist

4.1 Grimshader to Lochganvich

1107

1015

-8.3

Lewis

7.1 Gramisdale, Balivanich to Nunton

1296

1193

-7.9

Benbecula

3.1 Tolsta

568

524

-7.7

Lewis

2.1 Dalmore to Tolsta Chaolais

527

493

-6.5

Lewis

5.6 Northton to Rodel

449

425

-5.3

Harris

2.4 Kinlochroag to Brenish

353

337

-4.5

Lewis

5.4 Luskentyre to Scaristavore

179

171

-4.5

Harris

8.2 Castlebay to Cliad

754

723

-4.1

Barra

7.4 Howmore to Askernish

446

428

-4.0

South Uist

1.5 Arnol to Bragar

500

480

-4.0

Lewis

5.5 Geocrab to Lingerbay

191

186

-2.6

Harris

2.2 Breasclete to Garynahine

423

413

-2.4

Lewis

3.4 Newmarket to Marybank

1270

1258

-0.9

Lewis

3.7 Aignish to Swordale

600

599

-0.2

Lewis

3.6 Steinish to Melbost

911

910

-0.1

Lewis

3.5 Stornoway

5944

5975

0.5

Lewis

1.2 Cross to South Dell

545

548

0.6

Lewis

3.9 Shulishader to Portnaguran

826

832

0.7

Lewis

3.8 Garrabost to Bayble

821

833

1.5

Lewis

1.4 Barvas to Brue

528

538

1.9

Lewis

8.1 Eoligarry to Brevig

510

521

2.2

Barra

7.2 Market Stance to Creagorry

591

610

3.2

Benbecula

3.2 Gress to Upper Coll

1300

1358

4.5

Lewis

6.6 Grimsay

204

215

5.4

North Uist

6.4 Scolpaig to Ardheisker

400

423

5.8

North Uist

6.1 Berneray

133

141

6.0

North Uist

3.3 Tong

593

635

7.1

Lewis

7.3 Carnan Iochdar to Dremisdale

481

576

19.8

South Uist

6.5 Claddach Kyles to Claddach Carinis

400

480

20.0

North Uist

Total

30702

29600

(Source: Comhairle nan Eilean Siar based on General Register Office for Scotland data)

note that the 1981 resident population excludes households wholly absent on Census night.

See Statistical Area Map – Page 26

Table 8 Fragile Area Assessment

Statistical Area and Description

Total Score

4.3 Sheildinish to Lemreway

19

2.4 Kinlochroag to Brenish

17

5.3 Meavag Bays to Likisto

16

1.1 Port of Ness to Swainbost

15

5.5 Geocrab to Lingerbay

15

2.1 Dalmore to Tolsta Chaolais

14

5.2 Scalpay

13

7.7 Eriskay

13

5.1 Aline to Kendibeg

12

1.3 Galson to Ballantrushal

11

6.2 Lochmaddy to Ahmore

11

2.3 Linshader to Gt Bernera

10

8.3 Vatersay

10

1.6 Shawbost to Dalbeg

9

4.2 Soval Lodge to Airidhbhruaich

9

6.1 Berneray

9

1.5 Arnol to Bragar

8

2.2 Breasclete to Garynahine

7

3.1 Tolsta

7

4.1 Grimshader to Lochganvich

6

5.6 Northton to Rodel

6

7.5 Daliburgh to Lochboisdale

5

7.6 Kilpheder to South Glendale

5

1.2 Cross to South Dell

3

3.8 Garrabost to Bayble

0

5.4 Luskentyre to Scaristavore

0

6.3 Grenitote to Griminish

0

7.4 Howmore to Askernish

-1

3.5 Stornoway

-2

3.4 Newmarket to Marybank

-3

3.6 Steinish to Melbost

-3

3.7 Aignish to Swordale

-5

6.4 Scolpaig to Ardheisker

-5

6.6 Grimsay

-5

8.2 Castlebay to Cliad

-6

1.4 Barvas to Brue

-7

8.1 Eoligarry to Brevig

-7

3.2 Gress to Upper Coll

-8

3.9 Shulishader to Portnaguran

-8

6.5 Claddach Kyles to Claddach Carinis

-8

3.3 Tong

-11

7.1 Gramisdale, Balivanich to Nunton

-13

7.2 Market Stance to Creagorry

-13

7.3 Carnan Iochdar to Dremisdale

-13

(Source CnES, 1999)

See Statistical Area Map – Page 26

Unemployment rates for Travel to Work Areas (TTWA) shows that in recent years the unemployment rate in Uist and Barra has been above that for Lewis and Harris. However, during 1999 there was a convergence between the two rates (figure 4).

Estimated ward based unemployment rates show that the areas of Dell, Shawbost and Carloway have the highest unemployment rates in the Western Isles as at August 2000 (table 9 - based on 1991 ward areas).

Unemployment by Travel to Work Area

(Source Nomis, 2000)

The strategic issue that flows from the above background on social and economic disparities within the Western Isles is:

The need to reduce social and economic disparities within the Western Isles.

Employment and Economic Structure

The Incomes Study for the Highlands and Islands estimated employment in the Western Isles in 1996 to be 12,309 jobs or 9,663 Full Time Equivalents (FTE). This figure takes account of persons with more than one job. Examining the proportion of FTE in each sector shows the relative importance of fishing (and fish farming), construction, wholesale and retail, and public administration to the employment structure (table 10).

The Western Isles economy is very different to the Scottish economy. In particular sea fishing, fish farming, fish processing, transport related activity and education related activity are more important in terms of their contribution to GRDP than in Scotland as a whole. Whereas, the sectors of agriculture, food and drink manufacturing, other manufacturing, and public administration play as lesser part in contributing to the Western Isles GRDP compared with the Scottish economy as a whole (MLURI, 1999).

Table 9 Unofficial Unemployment Rate

August 2000 by ward (1991 boundaries)

1991 Wards

August 2000

Port of Ness

8.9%

Dell

11.4%

Barvas

8.5%

Shawbost

12.1%

Carloway

11.6%

Uig

4.7%

Gress

5.8%

Coll

6.6%

Laxdale

5.8%

Coulregrein

7.2%

Manor Park

7.8%

Bayhead

5.2%

Goathill

7.0%

Newton

7.4%

Sandwick

6.3%

Aignish

6.7%

Tiumpan

6.8%

North Lochs

8.5%

Kinloch

7.5%

Pairc

9.6%

Tarbert

6.9%

Bays

6.6%

Obbe

7.3%

Paible

5.7%

Lochmaddy

3.7%

Benbecula

4.2%

Iochdar

5.8%

Lochboisdale

5.1%

Northbay

4.8%

Castlebay

7.4%

W Isles

7.4%

(Source: Comhairle nan Eilean Siar 2000)

Note that these rates are unofficial and are based on claimant count data and economically active population as at 1991.

In particular, the Regional Accounts study shows that the agriculture and the textiles industries have suffered significant decreases since 1988/89 (MLURI, 1999).

The contribution of ‘tourism’ or visitors to the islands in 1997 (including business visitors and those visiting friends and relatives) is estimated at £22 million, and £32 million if you include expenditure on imports and indirect taxes. This is significantly higher than the previous study for 1988/89.

Table 10 Employment Estimates by Sector in the Western Isles 1996

Sector

No. Jobs

FTEs

Proportion of Total FTEs

Agriculture

1,073

686

7%

Forestry

5

4

-

Fishing

1,022

954

10%

Energy and Water Supply

101

97

1%

Food, Drink and Tobacco

248

230

2%

Engineering

490

462

5%

Other Manufacturing

730

455

5%

Construction

1,078

1,049

11%

Wholesale and Retail

1,522

1,171

12%

Hotels and Catering

790

558

6%

Finance and Business Services

610

500

5%

Public Administration

3,470

2,692

28%

Other Services

900

805

8%

Total

 

 

100%

(Source: Incomes Study for the Highlands and Islands October 1998) Includes self-employed.

The role of the Gaelic language in the generation of economic activity is also being increasingly recognised by organisations in the Western Isles, and the Scottish Parliament, as it offers potential as a growth area.

A key message from the Regional Accounts study is the importance of primary sector economic activity, and how it has the ability to generate significant economic impacts on the output of other sectors in the Western Isles economy. Fluctuations in demand for products in the primary sector have unusually high effects in the islands’ economy.

The study suggests that the sectors with the greatest employment generating impacts (multipliers) are, fish processing, air transport, food processing, ‘other’ public services (excluding public administration) and fish farming. For every one job created in these sectors it is estimated that two other jobs are generated elsewhere in the economy.

Based on figures from the Census of Population the number of people in employment increased by approximately 6.6% between 1981 and 1991. The number of females in employment rose by approximately 26% between 1981 and 1991 while the numbers of males in employment remained static (Source: GRO, Censuses).

National employment surveys can only be taken to give a general indication of the structure of those employees in employment due to the sample size used and the fact that it misses a lot of those engaged in self-employment. According to these national surveys the Western Isles has suffered a 11% decline in the number of employees in employment from 1991 to 1996 (table 11). Between 1993 and 1996 male full time employees declined and part time increased, and in the same period female full time and part time employees remained fairly stable (table 12). The Western Isles has a low proportion of male employees in full time employment and a high proportion of female employees in part time employment compared with the Scottish average (table 13).

Table 11 Employees in Employment 1991-1996 Western Isles

Year

Employees

1991

9,700

1993

9,300

1995

8,300

1996

8,600

(Source: Office for National Statistics. 1991 Census of Employment, 1993 Census of Employment, 1995 & 1996 Annual Employment Survey, Figures are rounded to the nearest 100) Does not include self-employed.

Table 12 Employment Change 1993 to 1996 Western Isles

Employees in Employment

1993

1996

Change in Number

Male Full Time

3,920

3,270

-709

Male Part Time

400

440

-89

Female Full Time

2,190

2200

-70

Female Part Time

2,740

2720

-83

Totals

9,260

8,630

-950

(Source: Census of Employment 1993, Annual Employment Survey 1996) Does not include self-employed.

Table 13 Proportion of Employees by Type of Employment by Area 1996

Area

Male Full Time

Male Part Time

Female Full Time

Female Part Time

Western Isles

37%

5%

26%

32%

Orkney

42%

7%

23%

27%

Shetland

45%

7%

21%

27%

HIE

40%

7%

25%

28%

Scotland

44%

6%

27%

23%

(Source: Office for National Statistics, NOMIS, Annual Employment Survey 1996)

Self-employment increased by 3.3% (60 persons) between 1981 and 1991 to almost 1,900. The Regional Accounts study highlights the importance of self-employment in comparison with national economy as a whole. Furthermore, at 1997 16% of those in employment have more than one job.

The Regional Accounts study also shows the importance of exports and export markets for the economy and the need to increase business competitiveness.

The strategic issue that flows from the above background of employment and economic structure is:

In a unique and vulnerable economy there is a need to create and safeguard sustainable quality employment opportunities and to support business and community developments which add value.

Social Inclusion

Female Unemployment Rates
Both the female and male unemployment rates in the Western Isles are consistently above the national average. However, it is male unemployment which gives greatest cause for concern, as the male unemployment rate is well above the national and HIE averages (figures 5 & 6)

(Source: Nomis, 2000)

Male Unemployment Rates(
Source: Nomis, 2000)

The economic activity rate, a measure of people working or looking for work, increased from 53.9% to 57.4% between 1981 and 1991 (Source: GROS). However, the 1991 figure of 57.4% is below the Scottish average at 60.4% and low in comparison with the HIE area. This is particularly true amongst the female population in the Western Isles (table 14).

Table 14 Economic Activity by Local Authority Area 1991

Area

Economic Activity Rate: persons aged 16 and over

Economic Activity Rate: Males aged 16 and over

Economic Activity Rate: Females aged 16 and over

Western Isles

57.4%

72.0%

43.1%

HIE

61.4%

75.1%

48.7%

Scotland

60.4%

72.8%

49.4%

(Source: General Register Office for Scotland 1991 Census)

The Western Isles has a greater proportion of those unemployed for over 6 months compared to the HIE area. Furthermore, the proportion of long term unemployment in Uists and Barra is significantly higher than the Western Isles average (as at December 1999) (table 15)

Table 15 Long Term Unemployment December 1999

Area

Total Unemployed

Male LT

% of Total

Female LT

% of Total

Persons LT

% of Total

Western Isles

1058

313

29.6

53

5.0

366

34.6

Lewis & Harris

867

236

27.2

40

4.6

276

31.8

Uists & Barra

191

77

40.3

13

6.8

90

47.1

HIE

9393

2376

25.3

511

5.4

2887

30.7

( Source Nomis: 2000) LT= long term unemployed over six months

Community and voluntary activity are important components of the social economy in the islands. A 1996 study by ERM Economics for HIE estimated that, in the Western Isles, there were 216 organisations with 1,333 volunteers and 712 employees, with a labour market valued at £11.2M and an income value of £16M. Recent research in Lewis of a 26% sample of 300 organisations indicated that 19% of voluntary organisations had paid staff. Given the narrow employment base, the role of the voluntary sector in the social economy is significant in empowering communities, combating exclusion, adding value and contributing to sustainable strategies across a range of social, cultural, economic and environmental issues.

The strategic issue that flows from the above background on social inclusion is:

The need to ensure that all individuals and communities can realise their potential and thereby make a full contribution to the development of the Western Isles.

Peripherality and Insularity

Transportation costs, mainly relating to imported goods and services, is consistently highlighted throughout the regional accounts study as one of the key constraining factors in the Western Isles economy. The study makes a link between the large trade deficit and transportation costs.

Every month Comhairle nan Eilean Siar surveys five locations (Lerwick, Kirkwall, Inverness, Glasgow and Stornoway) to monitor fuel prices. In June 2000 the price of fuel in the Western Isles was significantly higher than at mainland outlets, thus additional costs are passed on to Western Isles businesses, motorists and consumers (table 16).

Table 16 Fuel Price Watch Survey – Pence per litre 2000

 

U/l Petrol

4*Petrol

Diesel

Heating Oil

Marine Diesel

Lerwick

91.4

93.9

89.9

19.4

18.43

Kirkwall

91.9

97.4

91.9

19.9

18.19

Inverness

84.9

88.9

83.9

18.2

18.7

Glasgow

83.7

87.7

80.9

17.89

19.95

Stornoway

91.3

92.3

89.3

20.9

23.2

Max Difference pence per litre

7.6

4.6

8.4

3.0

5.0

Difference pence per gallon

34.5

20.9

38.2

13.7

22.8

(Source:CnES, June 2000)

The Scottish Executive estimates Western Isles building costs to be 30% above the national average, mainly due to high transportation costs and recognises that the difference in costs may vary by up to 45% for many building projects (Source: Scottish Executive Construction & Building Control Group).

The Rural Scotland Price Survey concludes that the cost of living, reflected in average weekly household expenditure (on a range of goods and services), distinctly higher in the remoter areas of the Western Isles in comparison with Inverness and Aberdeen (figure 7).

Average Weekly Household Expenditure

(Source Rural Scotland Price Survey Summer 1999)

The Regional Accounts study 1997 shows that some 23% of total household expenditure is spent outside the Western Isles or on mail order, representing a significant loss to the economy (MLURI, 1999).

The road network within the islands is particularly lengthy per head of population in comparison with the rest of Scotland. Over two thirds of all roads are sub-standard and the situation is exacerbated by the high costs of materials and the unsuitable nature of peat as a foundation. Sub-standard roads present a restriction to heavy vehicles and the movement of freight traffic (CnES, 2000). In addition, sparseness of population adversely affects the cost per capita of all infrastructure provision including transportation, water, sewerage and energy. As a consequence, the cost per capita for construction and maintenance of infrastructure is substantially higher than all other areas.

The development of inter-island links during the 1990’s must be regarded as a significant success. Strategic planning should look towards new and innovative ways of improving the movement of goods and people to and from, and within, our islands in order to reduce peripherality.

The socio-economic impact of peripheral and insular communities has already been reflected earlier through a clear recognition of regional socio-economic disparities that exist within the Western Isles.

The strategic issue that flows from the above background on peripherality and insularity:

How best to address the problems of infrastructure and service provision in the Western Isles caused by peripherality and insularity, exacerbated by the Islands geographic location within the Highlands and Islands.

Natural and Cultural Capital

The quality of the natural environment plays an important part in the attraction of tourists to the islands therefore leading to secondary employment in tourism. Outdoor recreation tends to focus upon the natural resource itself.

As the Western Isles contain such an important natural resource base and varying landscape, there are several different types of environmental designations in place throughout the area, including:

    • 55 Sites of Special Scientific Interest covering 38282.6ha, or 13.2% of the Western Isles area;
    • 4 National Nature Reserves covering 3237 ha, or 1.2% of the Western Isles area;
    • 15 Special Protection Areas covering 90481.9 ha, or 31.2% of the Western Isles area;
    • 11 Candidate Special Areas of Conservation covering 60904.5 ha, or 21% of the Western Isles area (two new proposed SACs are under consultation at present);
    • 5 Ramsar sites;
    • 3 National Scenic Areas total area of Western Isles covered being 116600 ha (includes large marine component);
    • 1 World Heritage site.

The Natura 2000 network consists of a series of sites designated as important for nature conservation under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives. The network encompasses areas classified as SPAs (for birds), and SACs (for habitats and species other than birds). The total area of the Western Isles included in the Natura network at present is 92479.26ha, or 31.9% - reflecting the high degree of overlap between SPAs and SACs. This figure may change if new sites are proposed.

The 3 National Scenic Areas covering St Kilda; South Lewis, Harris and North Uist; and South Uist Machair; recognise the unique and nationally important qualities of the Western Isles landscape.

Table 17 Summary of Environmental Designations

 

Lewis & Harris

Southern Isles

Western Isles

Number of SSSI

31.5

21.5

53

Area of SSSI (ha)

18252.1

19098.5

37350.6

% of Area

8.54

25.12

12.9

Number of NNR

2

2

4

Area of NNR (ha)

983

2254

3237

% of Area

0.46

2.97

1.12

Number of SPA

7

8

15

Area of SPA (ha)

73779.1

16702.8

90481.9

% of Area

34.52

21.98

31.23

Number of cSAC

5

6

11

Area of cSAC (ha)

45232.8

15671.68

60904.5

% of Area

*

*

*

Number of NSA

3

Area of NSA (ha)

116600

% of Area

*

*

*

* not possible to calculate this figure due to high proportion of marine areas included.

† not possible to calculate accurately due to nature of South Lewis, Harris & North Uist site.

The Western Isles are blessed with a remarkably well preserved archaeological heritage. Many generations of careful land management practices have resulted in a landscape in which the remains of the past continue to be visible and comprehensible, forming an outstandingly important economic and cultural resource for the islands.

The Sites and Monuments Record held by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar records a total of 5694 archaeological sites and monuments in the islands, dating from between 5,000 years old and 50 years old. The distribution of these is uneven, reflecting the history of archaeological survey rather than the real density of monuments. Many monuments undoubtedly remain to be recorded and mapped. Of these sites and monuments, only 247 have been protected by law as Scheduled Ancient Monuments, a designation defined as applying to ‘sites of national importance’. Again, this relatively low number reflects the history of archaeological work in the islands, rather than the quality of the sites on the ground; there are many more ‘schedulable’ sites in the islands.

Some 262 buildings in the Western Isles have been listed by the Secretary of State of Scotland as buildings of special architectural or historic interest (CnES, 2000). Of these 17 are in Category A i.e. buildings of national or more than local importance, 166 in Category B and 79 in Category C. A proportion are listed as "group listings", most of which are groups of traditional thatched dwellings. The main concentration of listed building is within the Stornoway Outstanding Conservation Area. To date two Conservation Areas have been designated in the Western Isles, one at Garenin, Lewis and the second in Stornoway. There are also two further proposals to designate Conservation Areas at Ruisgary, Berneray and Howmore, South Uist.

The sea area off the west coast of the Western Isles has been identified as being the area in the United Kingdom with the greatest potential for the exploitation of wave energy. However, it is generally acknowledged that the technical feasibility of a large-scale wave energy project linked to the national grid is in some doubt. Other natural resources which are important in the Western Isles are mineral resources, and the winds’ potential for electricity generation.

It is necessary, in addition to appreciating the social and economic changes which have taken (and are taking) place, to consider two further elements which have been instrumental in the formation of the "way of life" and "character" of the Western Isles. The first is the crofting system and land tenure; the second is the daily use of the Gaelic language, with around 68% of the population being Gaelic speakers (Source GROs).

The strategic issue that flows from the above background on natural capital (and bearing in mind the preceding sections) is:

How best to build on the quality of the natural and cultural heritage resources of the Western Isles through the promotion of sustainable economic development.

Statistical Area Map

Statistical Area Map

 

 

 

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