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SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE ADDRESSES FEARS OF POPULATION SLIDE

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Action by the Scottish executive is tackling head-on fears of population decline in the Western Isles and in Argyll...
Action by the Scottish executive is tackling head-on fears of population decline in the Western Isles and in Argyll, deputy minister for The Highlands and Islands, Alasdair Morrison, has said.

The minister was commenting on official figures published this week which showed that populations in some remote areas would fall if past trends continued.

The range of measures being taken by the Scottish executive to tackle population decline include:

- support for the latest IT infrastructure to benefit business and education alike

- plans for the University of the Highlands & Islands to prevent young people entering higher education having to leave, often never to return

- support for new businesses to create job opportunities in projects as diverse as the new fish processing factory on Scalpay and the Iomart call centre in Stornoway

- improving rural transport with substantial spending on infrastructure projects such as the Eriskay causeway and the new Corran ferry

- wider programmes such as Iomairt aig an Oir (the Initiative at the Edge) and grants for community land purchase to boost local economies

The new Scottish Land Fund is bringing an extra£11m of lottery cash to fund development projects which involve community ownership of land.

Mr Morrison said:

'Effective government means anticipating trends and acting early. I am not complacent, but I remain up-beat as to how our commitment to tackling population loss is starting to pay off.

'The registrar general for Scotland's projections provide a useful guide, based on past trends, to possible population movements. These do not take into account positive interventions by the Executive.

'I am less concerned, though, about past trends than in ensuring that Scotland's remoter areas no longer lose out on new investment. Our public agencies are now being encouraged to do much more to help.

'Population projections make assumptions about future birth rates, mortality and migration. However, we are strongly committed to improving rural health.

'Encouraging people not to leave the Highlands & Islands - and attracting incomers - will remain a top priority of the executive.'

BACKGROUND

Mr Morrison responded today to the population projections published this week by the registrar general for Scotland.

The projections indicated that the populations of the Western Isles and Argyll & Clyde could fall by 14 per cent and six per cent respectively over the period 1998 to 2016.

The published population projections are based on past trends and take account of particular assumptions. The Scottish executive is committed to tackling the causes of population decline through initiatives which have targeted rural and remote parts of Scotland.

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