More young people want to stay in Highlands

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Respondents to a survey commissioned by HIE said those who were to able to live and work in the Highlands were "lucky"

Increasing numbers of young people want to live and work in the Highlands and Islands, it has been suggested.

Youth migration from the region has been a concern for a number of years.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise said its latest survey of young people's aspirations and attitudes suggest a greater desire to stay in the area.

The results of its study of more than 3,000 people aged between 15 and 30 show 46% were committed to staying, up from 36% when the survey was last done.

The previous study, which was carried out in 2015, found the region's young people said poor connectivity and a lack of housing as barriers to wanting to stay.

Young people make up 17% of the Highlands and Islands' total population of 470,000.

'Lucky to stay'

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) said almost all areas of the region showed an increase in the proportion of young people committed to staying, while fewer school leavers wanted to leave. This figure was down to 42% from 56%.

Over half - 54% - of respondents said they anticipated living in the Highlands and Islands in 10 years' time. HIE said this was particularly the case among those living in Shetland, Western Isles, Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross.

Almost 70% agreed that people who stay were "lucky" to be able to work or study locally, and most believed that leavers would return to the region when the time was right.

Why I stayed home in the Highlands

Image caption,
Finlay MacDonald started making chocolates in his final years at school

Finlay MacDonald, 19, runs his own chocolate-making business from his home in Ratagan in Glen Shiel.

"I just love it here," he says. "There is such great natural beauty.

"But that isn't all that there is here. It is such a lovely community and there is a really friendly atmosphere about the whole place."

Finlay started making chocolates in his final three years at high school.

Image caption,
Finlay runs his business from home

He says: "I then got an unconditional offer to study at university."

To save some money before going to university, Finlay offered his chocolates for sale.

"It was doing really well so I decided to defer entry to university for a year, and then it was doing so well I quit university altogether."

On his location for his business, he says: "Isn't it just amazing to walk out of your front door and see the water? I love living by the water and the mountains. It is brilliant."

Image caption,
The young businessman says he loves living and working in the Highlands

Following the 2015 study, HIE said a broad strategy was implemented to retain and attract young people to the region.

It said increased research activity across the University of the Highlands and Islands and other academic institutes active in the region had helped attract more students.

Also, the Developing the Young Workforce programme had been implemented through eight regional groups to promote opportunities and help people become "work ready".

The agency added that the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal was helping to deliver projects such as the Northern Innovation Hub and Science Skills Academy.

Carroll Buxton, HIE's director of regional development, said young people were vital to the future prosperity of the Highlands and Islands.

She said: "Creating conditions that make the region attractive to them has always been challenging, and one of our key priorities.

"It is therefore very heartening to hear that increasing numbers of young people appear to be feeling more positive about the region as a place to live, study and pursue rewarding careers."

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