Island Populations

Information for all Scotland 's Inhabited Islands can be found on the NRS website . As more detail is made available from Scotland’s 2011 Census , NRS will consider producing a paper similar to Scotland’s Census 2001: Statistics for Inhabited Islands (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) published following the last Census.

Outer Hebrides

Consideration of the change in resident population from 1981 to 2011 in terms of island group areas illustrates the severity of population change in particular locations in the Outer Hebrides . The most significant population decrease between 1981 and 1991 was in Harris (these figures include the island of Scalpay ) representing a fall in population of 11%. Whilst Harris experienced the same rate of decline between 1991 and 2001, Barra and Vatersay also saw a decline of 11% over the same time period whilst figures for South Uist (which includes the island of Eriskay) report the highest drop in population of 15%. However, from 2001 to 2011 some island areas have experienced an increase in population, Barra and Vatersay experiencing the highest increase at 8% and Lewis and Benbecula experiencing a 6% increase.  Both Harris and South Uist experienced a decrease of 3% and North Uist a 2% decrease.  Overall the Outer Hebrides experienced a 4.5% increase over the last decade.

Outer Hebrides Island Area - Resident Population Change 1981 to 2011
Area 1991 Total Change 81-91 % 2001 Total Change 91-01 % 2011 Total Change 01-11 %
Lewis 20,159 -561 -3 18,489 -1,670 -8 19,658 1,169 6
Harris 2,222 -267 -11 1,984 -238 -11 1,916 -68 -3
North Uist 1,815 12 1 1,657 -158 -9 1,619 -38 -2
Benbecula 1,803 -84 -4 1,249 -554 -31 1,330 81 6
South Uist 2,285 -147 -6 1,951 -334 -15 1,897 -54 -3
Barra & Vatersay 1,316 -55 -4 1,172 -144 -11 1,264 92 8
Totals 29,600 -1,102 -3% 26,502 -3,098 -10% 27,684 1,182 4

(Source: National Records of Scotland)

Note: Areas are amalgamation of other geographies including other islands. These are not the same as single inhabited islands as defined by the NRS and detailed in the large Table below.

 

Population by Island Areas
Area 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011
Lewis 23,731 21,937 20,326 20,720 20,159 18,489 19,658
Harris 3,991 3,285 2,879 2,489 2,222 1,984 1,916
North Uist 2,221 1,925 1,726 1,803 1,815 1,657 1,619
Benbecula 924 1,358 1,355 1,887 1,803 1,249 1,330
South Uist 2,840 2,637 2,517 2,432 2,285 1,951 1,897
Barra & Vatersay 1,884 1,467 1,088 1,371 1,316 1,172 1,264
Total 35,591 32,609 29,891 30,702 29,600 26,502 27,684

(Source: National Records of Scotland)

Note: Figures for 1951 to 1981 are ' persons present ' whilst 1981 onwards are ' persons resident '.

 

Population of Inhabited Islands 1951 to 2011*
Inhabited Islands 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011 % Change
51-11
% Change
01- 11
Lewis 23,344 21,614 20,047 21,253 19,634 18,256 19,406 -17 6
Bernera 384 317 276 292 267 233 252 -34 8
Flannan Islands 3 3 3 0 0 U U U U
Harris 3,121 2,493 2,175 2,137 1,866 1,662 1,625 -48 -2
Berneray 246 201 131 134 140 136 138 -44 1
Ensay 2 2 2 0 0 U U U U
Killegray 0 0 2 0 0 U U U U
Pabbay 2 2 4 0 0 U U U U
St Kilda 0 65 65 46 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Scalpay 541 470 483 461 388 322 291 -46 -10
Scarp 74 46 12 2 0 U U U U
Taransay 5 5 5 0 0 U U U U
North Uist 1,890 1,620 1,469 1,454 1,386 1,271 1,254 -34 -1
Baleshare 75 59 64 66 52 49 58 -23 18
Boreray 7 5 0 0 0 U U U U
Grimsay 236 239 193 206 211 201 169 -28 -16
Kirkibost 6 0 0 0 0 U U U U
Leiravay 5 2 0 0 0 U U U U
Vallay 2 0 0 0 0 U U U U
South Uist 2,462 2,376 2,281 2,223 2,064 1,818 1,754 -29 -4
Benbecula 924 1,358 1,355 1,988 1,883 1,219 1,303 41 7
Eilean na Cille 4 5 4 0 0 U U U U
Eriskay 330 231 219 219 173 133 143 -57 8
Flodday 17 14 9 9 N/A 11 7 -59 -36
Grimsay 22 13 4 12 N/A 19 20 -9 5
Sunamul 5 0 0 0 0 U U U U
Barra 1,728 1,369 1,005 1,232 1,212 1,078 1,174 -32 9
Berneray 5 3 6 0 0 U U U U
Vatersay 151 95 77 108 70 94 90 -40 -4

* Figures for 1951-1991 are ' persons present ' . Figures for 2001 are ' persons resident ' .

N/A - Comparable figures not available U - Uninhabited

(Source: National Records of Scotland)

The overall trend in population decline seen at the Outer Hebrides level is reflected across individual islands. Islands such as Eriskay, Harris, Scalpay and Berneray have seen a particularly marked decline in population in the last 50 years. On Benbecula changes in military presence have had a considerable impact on the island's population in recent history. Benbecula experienced an increase of 44% over the last 60 years.  In the last 10 years the trend of decline has continued in some islands, but more have seen an increase.  Lewis, Bernera, Berneray, Baleshare, Benbecula, Eriskay, Grimsay (South) and Barra have all experienced increases.  Baleshare had the highest percentage increase at 18%.  In actual numbers this amounts to an increase of 9 people.  Lewis had the largest increase in number at 1,150.

Note on Island Definitions

Based on the table above and shown in the map, there are 15 islands in the Outer Hebrides, which had persons resident in 2011.  For Census purposes Lewis and Harris are treated as one island, which is geographically correct. They have been separated in the above table and elsewhere in the factfile to achieve more appropriate local area analysis. Culturally, socially and environmentally, they are often considered by islanders to be as separate as if they were two different landmasses.