Worrying population forecast

Analysts at the National Records of Scotland Office have published worrying new predictions for the future demographic of the Western Isles.

Eilean Siar is expected to have the second largest drop in population between 2010 and 2035 with a decrease of 11.3 per cent.

While the big decline in the number of children aged 0-15 in Scotland is also projected for Eilean Siar, with a 34 per cent reduction by 2035.

The statistics have caused concern for the future of our island communities in terms of providing the services to care for an increasing older population and the sustainability of island communities with a smaller proportion of working age residence.

Archie K. A. Campbell, council member for the Beinn na Faoghla Agus Uibhist A Tuath ward and chair of the Sustainable Development Committee described the statistics as a: “Continuing disappointment.”

He went on to say: “The truth of the matter is we are looking at an increasing number of elderly people, there are issues that will need to be addressed in terms of care and providing for them.

“It is not the concern that we have a lot of old people - the concern is - we need to provide a good life for those people.”

He explained: “It’s a problem for all the agencies in the Outer Hebrides that are delivering services and who have a responsibility and obligation.

“The plain fact of the matter is that everything costs more. Financially things are going to be difficult for the next few years, and who know how long for.”

He stressed: “It is a clear responsibility for Councillors to look for the best for everyone in the local community.

“We need to understand in the longer term that we will have a very serious issue on the islands.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “There is inevitably going to be more pressure and in the present financial climate, with savings estimated at over £3m to achieve in both 2013/14 and 2014/15, additional spend will require savings in other service areas.

“The Comhairle will continue to work with the Health Board to try to seek the most efficient delivery of these services.”

He went on to explain: “In December 2011, The Scottish Government announced plans to integrate health and social care services for older people.

“Initially, the focus will be on improving older people’s care by reducing delayed discharges, reducing unplanned admissions to hospital and increasing the number of older people who live in their own home rather than a care home or hospital.

“Consultation on the new legislation will take place over the summer.”