Rural Exchange

ReRIC Rural Demographic Changes

Demographic change in rural and island Scotland: ReRIC persistent challenge 2

In the ReRIC project, we are aiming to generate new understandings of three persistent challenges that have impacted on rural and island residents for many years, and in some cases many decades. The second challenge we are exploring is demographic change and depopulation. 

The Rural and Islands Insights Report 2023 found that Scotland's rural and island areas are faced with significant demographic challenges including slow population growth (or even depopulation), ageing populations, and fewer young children leading to long-term shrinkages of the communities.

Many of these challenges are not unique to rural and island areas. For instance Scotland and the UK as a whole faces an ageing population with one in four people in the UK predicted to be over 65 by 2050. However, this trend and its impacts are more pronounced in remote and rural areas. Over-65s now account for over 25% of the population in very remote mainland areas compared to 17% in urban areas and 20% in accessible areas. This brings both challenges and opportunities for communities.

Equally, these trends not universal across rural and island areas. Whilst outmigration and depopulation is an overarching trend there is local variation in population dynamics. Areas in Skye, Mull, Islay and Jura have experienced population growth while other areas such as parts of Lewis, the north coast of Caithness and Sutherland, and Dumfries and Galloway have experienced significant decline. Again, these trends bring unique challenges and opportunities for communities.

ReRIC sets out to better understand demographic changes across Scotland's rural and island areas which can contribute to the Scottish Government's strategic plan to address depopulation set out in its Supporting and enabling sustainable communities: An Action Plan to Address Depopulation.


Author: Ana Vuin and Jane Atterton

Funded by the Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme 2022-2027. SRUC-E2-2: Reimagined Policy Futures: Shaping Sustainable, Inclusive and Just Rural and Island Communities in Scotland (ReRIC)

You can read the report using the download link below or you can find the report using the DOI: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.24057555

Further Reading

More within the ReRIC Rural Demographic Changes project

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ReRIC Rural Housing Challenges

Housing supply and affordability in rural and island Scotland: ReRIC persistent challenge 1

In the ReRIC project, we are aiming to generate new understandings of three persistent challenges that have...[more]

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ReRIC Rural Demographic Changes

Demographic change in rural and island Scotland: ReRIC persistent challenge 2

In the ReRIC project, we are aiming to generate new understandings of three persistent challenges that have...[more]

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ReRIC Social Exclusion Challenges

Social exclusion and marginalisation in rural and island Scotland: ReRIC persistent challenge 3

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Rural and Island Policy Evolution

As part of our research for ReRIC we undertook a review of the evolution of rural and island policy in Scotland since the Second World War. Based on this review...[more]


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