What can we learn from the past decade - statistical snapshot of the Outer Hebrides in the 2010s

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Bad news sells - there is a reason why you see more negative headlines compared to positive stories.

The newspaper business, which must keep its eye on the bottom line more than ever these days, relies on the public’s appetite for doom, gloom and sensationalism and it feeds this craving conscientiously.

However, not all the news is grim and it is easy to forget the positive and the high points of a year or a decade.

This week the Stornoway Gazette will remind its readers of some of the positive stories which grabbed the headlines in the 2010s and we will see that Islanders have had their fair share of reasons to be hopeful of the future.

As part of this reflection we have also had a look at the births, deaths and marriages/civil partnership statistics for the last decade.

While next year’s census will demonstrate in detail how the population of the Outer Hebrides is changing our snapshot gives some guidance to life in the Islands and perhaps we can use this information to create a better future for the region.

From 2010 to 2019 getting married in the Islands remained strong and stable, with no indication that folks were shunning this traditional method of expressing their love and creating the basis for a family unit.

In 2010 there were 102 marriages and in 2019 118, with the average number of marriages in each year of the decade being 117.

There was a bumper year for “I dos” in 2014 when 143 couples tied the knot. In total 1,170 marriages took place in the Islands in the 2010s.

In the case of the relatively new civil partnership there was only one registered in the Islands during the decade, in 2013, although there was one other just outside of the 2010s registered in 2009, perhaps these will increase in the future.

Welcoming new little islanders is crucial to the sustainability of the region and all those married couples will hopefully be doing their bit in this area.

Overall there were 2,260 births in the decade, with the average number of babies each year at 226.

The stork was particularly busy in 2013, as that year we welcomed 246 new little balaich and clann nighean.

On the not so positive side the number of deaths outweighed the number of births by a substantial number in each year of the decade.

In 2010 there were 359 deaths - 124 more than births that year and in 2019 there were 342 deaths compared to 200 births.

The number of deaths during each year of the decade averaged 355, 129 more than the average number of births.

This could be seen as a negative aspect to our snapshot, but instead of dwelling on this fact, shouldn’t we be taking the opportunity to use this information as a stepping-board to finding a solution to turn this around?

What could we in the islands do to encourage inward migration - particularly of young families or people who would go on to have families?

The Islands are a beautiful and safe place to live, the safety aspect is particularly striking when compared to a city.

Christmas Day in Glasgow was a beautiful, sunny day, however there were few children out in the city streets playing on their new bikes etc, changed days from when I was a child, but in the Islands we are still able to let our children have a freer childhood, as we do not have to worry about busy roads or strangers stealing them away.

Our homes are also much safer as many city folks are forced to have security cameras in their properties to deter burglars.

To build on what we already have - a beautiful and safe environment - we need to create and sustain quality, well-paid jobs, we need to provide facilities that appeal to families: good, affordable housing, good schools, varied, accessible and numerous leisure activities.

We need to change the wider perception that the Islands are a dour place to live and are backward looking and create communities which appeal, while throwing off ideas which do not.

Let’s be bold in the 2020s and obliterate the picture of remote Islands which are difficult to live in with little to enjoy.

We should be painting a new landscape - creating a picture of an ideal corner of the UK to raise families and enjoy a successful, but safer way of life - in contrast to the crowded, crime-ridden and congested cities of the mainland.

Catch up with some of the best stories from the last decade in our special ‘Gazette’s Ten of the Best from the 2010s’ in this week’s paper out on Thursday, January 9th.