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Scottish Coastal Socio-Economic Scoping Study


Scottish Coastal Socio-Economic Scoping Study



8.1 In order to understand how coastal communities are responding to the various processes and changes which affect the Scottish coastline, this part of the study sought to identify and evaluate examples of innovative developments in different regions of Scotland. Central to this stage of the research was an attempt to determine:

a) the extent to which such development initiatives have proved effective in managing the impacts of socio-economic and cultural change; and
b) the extent to which such development initiatives provide appropriate models for future regional development.

8.2 Case study selection has been informed by both the review of socio-economic dynamics and the data profiles of the coastal regions. These research phases have enabled the development of an overview of the key changes impacting upon coastal communities in Scotland. In summary, these are as follows:

  • there has been a transition in the structure of the coastal economy represented by the declining significance of the primary sector and the dominance of sectors such as wholesale, retail and repairs;

  • there is evidence of fluid population movement in certain regions;

  • there is a growing elderly population;

  • changing gender perceptions and opportunities have led to new employment opportunities for women;

  • a significant percentage of the population faces issues of social disadvantage and deprivation (poor service provision, peripherality, low income, limited access to rented housing, etc.);

  • there is an identifiable relationship between the quality of the natural heritage and economic growth.

8.3 It is in response to these key socio-economic changes and processes that we have selected case studies which address different dimensions of Scottish coastal life. Whilst we have attempted to address concerns generated by changing employment opportunities we have also recognised the importance of dealing with the development of sustainable communities.

Thematic organisation of case studies

8.4 In order to address the issues highlighted in earlier phases of the study, the case studies have been chosen under two broad thematic headings: a) sectoral responses to economic change; b) sustainable community development. These are outlined below:

Case studies A and B: Sectoral responses to economic change- economic diversification within the fishing sector

8.5 In recognition that some Scottish coastal areas are socio-economically dependent on traditional activities such as fishing coupled with pressures to accept wider structural changes, the first two case studies explore changes within two regional fishing centres. The first case study focuses on the North East of Scotland and identifies those pressures which necessitate a change in the development trajectory of the region. The second case studies outlines the manner in which Shetland has attempted to promote the development of aquaculture as a means of avoiding over-reliance on the traditional fishing sector.

Case studies B and C: Sustainable community development- Eyemouth and East Berwickshire Partnership and Initiative at the Edge/ Iomairt aig an Oir

8.6 Effective sustainable management of rural coastal communities is key to tackling some of the social and economic challenges faced by a significant proportion of the population living in these areas. Two case studies have been chosen to evaluate approaches towards sustainable community development. The first case study explores the significance of the Local Rural Partnership scheme to coastal areas. Through an evaluation of the Eyemouth and East Berwickshire Partnership, an example is provided of a model aimed at delivering business development, environmental improvements and community development to rural communities through public sector partnerships. The second case study has been selected in response to the fact that many outlining areas of Scotland face significant pressures from the erosion of social structures and systems that are often further enforced by problems of peripherality. The Initiative at the Edge programme has been identified as a scheme charged with the promotion of a range of community based development initiatives in some of Scotland's most remote and fragile coastal communities.

Case studies A and B: Sectoral responses to economic change- economic diversification within the fishing sector


8.7 Many coastal settlements in Scotland remain, to varying degrees, socio-economically dependent on traditional activities such as fishing and fish processing. The fishing industry is a good example of a sector which has seen those involved interact and integrate with other users of the coast and sectors such as aquaculture, oil and gas, recreation and tourism. This traditional sector has seen a long-term decline in employment that has influenced social change and cultural behaviour in many fishing communities, yet fishing remains an important economic component of many coastal areas. In recent times, other sectors have become significantly more important in terms of employment than fishing, for example, Aberdeen is more dependent on the oil and gas industry and the Highlands and Islands more so on aquaculture than on fishing.

8.8 This section looks overall at the fishing industry in Scotland and illustrates the regional patterns of this sector and how this sector and its associated human settlements are changing.

8.9 In 2000, the Scottish fishing fleet landed 520,000 tonnes of fish worth 330 million, over 50% of the UK total. Some of the richest fishing grounds in the EC waters are off the Scottish coast and 9 out of the 15 most important UK fishing ports are based in Scotland. However, in common with a decline in fish stocks worldwide, there has been a significant decline in the Scottish fish catch and size of the fleet.

8.10 The Scottish fishing industry accounts for around 0.6% of Scotland's GDP and 0.3% of the UK's. However, on a regional basis it becomes more important and particularly in Aberdeenshire, where it accounts for 3% of the regions GDP (Scottish Executive, 2001). In total, 45% (by value) of all Scottish fish landings are made in the three main ports of the North Eastern region of Scotland, Aberdeen, Fraserburgh and Peterhead.

8.11 The Scottish fishing industry is concentrated in the North Eastern region and the Highlands and Islands, with both areas each accounting for approximately 40% of total employment. The North East also has a significant supply and services industry, worth more than 26 million from shipbuilding and net making and over 45% of the employment and value added in fish processing (Blackadder et. al, 2001). The Highlands and Islands have a similar level of employment in fish catching as in the North Eastern region, although the value-added is about half as much, due largely to different fleet structures. However, the Highlands and Islands have over 90% of the total jobs and value-added in aquaculture, in addition to a significant processing sector. The Shetland Islands are much smaller in terms of its economy, with a workforce and population about one seventh of that in the North Eastern region, yet the fishing industry plays a major role in the island's economy because of its geographical position.

8.12 The size of the Scottish fishing fleet has been steadily declining over the past ten years (see Table 8.1). By 2000 the fleet size was 30% smaller than in 1990 and had fallen by 8.5% since 1998 - this reduction in vessel numbers will continue. There are a number of reasons for this decline most notably, two decommissioning schemes between 1990 and 2000 as a result of the EU's Multi-Annual Guidance Programme scheme. Landings to Scottish ports also fell by nearly 20% between 1990 and 2000.

Table 8.1: Active Scottish based vessels, tonnage and power, 31st December 1990 to 2000 (Scottish Executive, 2001)


Number of vessels >10M


Average tonnes

Power kW

Average kW



































































8.13 Coastal areas identified as being the most socio-economically dependent on fishing are Fraserburgh and Sutherland North West. Other highly dependent fishing areas include Peterhead, Shetland, Skye and Wester Ross. The changes currently being experienced in the Scottish fishing industry are also influencing the development of associated human settlements along corresponding coastlines, i.e. areas where fishers and their families live. Knowledge on the factors that are influencing these changes will help to inform how best policy can address management issues of coastal areas dependent on a particular sector such as fishing. Table 8.2 summarises the main factors (economic, social, scientific and technical influences) that are shaping the fishing industry and thus affecting coastal fishing communities.

8.14 One of the most significant changes witnessed in coastal communities reliant on fisheries operations based in the North Sea fishery is in terms of vessel ownership. Traditionally, most fishing vessels in Scotland were owned by individuals (passed down from father to son) or partnerships with larger vessels often having a fish selling company as one of the partners. However, a trend is emerging in that the number of boats wholly owned by companies is increasing, particularly amongst the larger sized vessels for pelagic catch. The vessels are radically altering the fishery from the traditional family operation into large commercial concerns operating to scale economies.

8.15 Little information exists on how emerging trends in cultural influences are having an effect on the sustainability of traditional coastal communities and in particular how the coastal population is changing its relationship with newer marine activities and related issues. This is clearly an area that warrants further research. Table 8.2 draws attention to the type of information needed in future studies.

Table 8.2: The main economic, social, scientific and technical influences on those involved in the fishing industry and its associated communities






State of the stocks

Capital expenditure & investment






Market conditions

Perceptions of risk

Vessel characteristics


Personal objectives

Weather, climate change


Quality of life indicators

Review of CFP



Move from national towards local management

Onshore/offshore employment

Use of indigenous knowledge

Fleet size - decommissioning

Diversification opportunities


8.16 The next section compares the development of two different regional areas of Scotland (one mainland and the other an island community) that have traditionally relied on fishing as a way of life and have more recently diversified into newer activities such as aquaculture, oil and gas, and tourism.

Case study A: The changing nature of the North East fishing industry

8.17 The North Eastern region of Scotland was a natural choice because it includes two of the most important fishing ports in the UK, Peterhead and Fraserburgh. There are also a number of smaller fishing ports in this region with associated villages, including Banff, Boddam, Buckie, Burghead, Findochty, Gardenstown, Pennan, Port Errol, Portnockie, Portsoy, Rosehearty, Sandhaven and Whitehills.

8.18 The economy of the North East is based largely on agriculture, fishing, food and paper products, gas, oil, fish processing, and tourism. In relation to fishing, for example, 9% of the workforce in Aberdeenshire is employed by this sector (5% - processing; 3% fishing and 1% ancillary services). In Peterhead, the UK's largest white fish landing port in Europe, fishing accounts for approximately 10% of employment in the town. Peterhead has a long traditional association with fishing having become one of the largest ports in the north coast by 1680. This was due to its fishing interests in herring, sealing and whaling.

8.19 Historically, the economy of Aberdeen also evolved from fishing, however, today it is the hub of the oil and gas industry in the UK with Peterhead playing an important secondary role as a supply centre for offshore production facilities. It is important that the North East region of Scotland look at ways to reduce its dependence on the oil and gas sector as Aberdeenshire council predicts that employment within this sector will decline by approximately 37% over the period 1996-2011. This decrease in employment will affect both offshore and onshore jobs including the construction, distribution, engineering, manufacturing, operation and research and development parts of the sector.

8.20 As with many Local Authorities and partnerships across Scotland, those in the North East region have identified a number of key actions as part of a strategy where the aim is to encourage diversification of the economy in order to improve the regeneration of some areas. The main issues to be addressed for further action are:

  • Sustaining a competitive fishing industry;

  • Diversification of the company base;

  • Development of the recreation and tourism sector;

  • Improvement of town centres;

  • Housing investment;

  • Social inclusion;

  • Marketing and promotion.

8.21 This list is typical of information found in Action Plans for different areas of Scotland. Table 8.3 outlines the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT analysis) of socio-economically dependent fishing communities and Table 8.4 summarises examples of projects from some of the above categories listed, for both the regional case study areas selected for this study, North East of Scotland and Shetland in addition to other coastal areas across Scotland.

Case study B: The changing nature of the Shetland fishing industry

8.22 Shetland is often described as the most peripheral and isolated community of the UK is situated approximately 338 km (200 miles) north of Aberdeen and is made up of over 100 islands (15 are inhabited). In the last 25 years, the island economy has changed substantially. The main sources of economic activity are from fisheries (capture and processing), aquaculture and oil related activities followed by agriculture, tourism and knitwear. Approximately 25% of all jobs are dependent on fisheries and 19% are in the public sector. In terms of value to the Shetland economy, the key sectors in 1999 were first fisheries valued at 139 million (includes aquaculture - high value because increased salmon production and fish processing offset a fall in fish catching), second Shetland Islands Council, 112.7 million and thirdly oil production operations, worth 53.7 million. The 3 other key sectors were tourism (14.4 million), agriculture (11.8 million) and knitwear (4.9 million).

8.23 Shetland has experienced some difficult periods in terms of its economy although overall, activities in most of the sectors are increasing along with associated employment opportunities. Unemployment is generally low and incomes are higher than average. Most of the economic activities have very small profit margins and are sensitive to external factors such as the Common Fisheries Policy, strength of the pound and collapse of Russian and Far Eastern markets (Blackadder et al., 2001).

8.24 The communities most dependent on fisheries are Scalloway, Burra, Whalsay and Out Skerries - the latter is wholly dependent on fish catching and salmon farming.

8.25 Aquaculture, particularly salmon farming has been very successful in Shetland. Fish farming started in the 1980s and in recent years has seen a number of setbacks due to falling prices, the Braer oil tanker incident in 1993 and the spread of Infectious Salmon Anaemia in 1998. Farming of salmon remains an important sector in Shetland although it has undergone restructuring from many middle-sized production units into fewer and more efficient bigger units. This has largely occurred as a result of outside investment particularly from Norwegian companies. This trend has also been observed for aquaculture operations in the Highlands and Islands. Other types of aquaculture in Shetland include shellfish farming, mainly mussels.

8.26 Production of newer species to aquaculture is also developing such as cod farming. Other candidates include haddock. The salmon farming industry has had a major impact on the Shetland economy directly, through jobs and incomes and indirectly, through ancillary services and suppliers such as the transport sector. One of the advantages of salmon aquaculture to the Shetland Islands is that production can occur over a large geographical range due to suitable environmental rearing conditions and so many of the more isolated communities such as the Out Skerries, where little or no alternative sources of income are available, have managed to sustain a living from salmon farming.

8.27 The non-salmonid marine finfish sector of aquaculture is forecast to expand throughout Scotland and this will bring advantages to all those local economies that are expanding their marine aquaculture interests. In addition to the farming side of marine finfish there are also related benefits to the whole range of services that support the Seafood industry. This has implications for Shetland and other areas such as the Highlands and Islands involved at a significant level in aquaculture. Within the next 10 years, this sub-sector of aquaculture has been predicted to provide significant new employment (600 direct FTEs, 2,400 total FTEs) with an annual exchequer revenue of at least 2.6 million per annum in tax and NI (from direct on-farm employment alone).

8.28 As the role of the oil industry declines in Shetland, it is important that its value in economic terms is replaced, hence there is a need for action to address this issue. Action has so far focussed on identifying and encouraging potential development opportunities in the traditional industries, i.e. fishing, in addition to newer sectors such as aquaculture, festivals (craft and music) and marine renewable energy.

8.29 The next section outlines a SWOT analysis the case study areas and elsewhere across Scotland.

SWOT analyses on coastal communities socio-economically dependent on fishing

8.30 Some of the details on issues related to the socio-economics, culture, fishing and externalities of fishing for the Shetland Islands are similar to those for the North Eastern region of Scotland. In order to summarise some of the trends and key issues arising which are relevant to the development of a national coastal strategy, a S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis is presented in Table 8.3. Whilst Table 8.3 highlights that fishing activity is characterised by a range of strengths related largely to high levels of industrial capacity coupled with appropriate levels of cultural support, the industry is also undermined by a series of significant weaknesses. Many of these are independent of fishing capability and relate primarily to external variables such as reduced stocks, variable supply, peripherality and increased competition. Due to an inability within the traditional sector to counter such trends, other industries such as aquaculture and tourism provide coastal areas with potential forms of economic diversification.

Table 8.3: SWOT analysis of coastal communities involved in fishing and its associated activities.



Strong commitment to fishing heritage

Declining catch trends

Sound fishing infrastructure

Decline in ship-building activities

Good quality facilities

Lack of all year round supply leaving processing units under capacity

Processing sites close to workforce and main ports

Increasing competition from finfish farmers

High market value of fresh Scottish fish

Distance from main markets

Strong research and development commitment in capture and processing sectors

Current conservation oriented policies (particularly CFP) at odds with perception of industry stakeholders

Good skills development through locally based colleges.

Lack of communication between different bodies

Difficult to manage activities strategically due to uncertainty



Increased stakeholder involvement will help inform lobbying on policy issues.

Decline of ancillary services such as processing.

Creating new markets for existing non-commercial locally available species, such as velvet crabs.

Possible collapse of over fished stocks.

Develop amenities for visiting sailing vessels.

Difficulties in recruitment to the fishing industry - many preferring to work in the oil related activities.

Explore diversification into tourism (wildlife watching) and recreational ventures (diving tours).

Poor image of the industry.

Source: adapted from Blackadder, 2001

Examples of case study projects on coastal development initiatives

8.31 Table 8.4 lists examples of coastal development projects that demonstrate changes of emphasis of existing coastal activities, diversification into alternative or newer ventures and/or have strategic/policy implications.

Table 8.4: Case study projects




Sustaining a Competitive Fishing Industry

Aberdeen, Peterhead and Shetland

  • redevelopment of fish processing facilities.

  • upgrading of fish markets.

  • introduction of electronic auctioning.

  • establish fishing industry forum to improve co-ordination of lobbying on key issues.

  • retraining.

  • promoting positive image of the industry.

Diversification of company base

Aberdeen and Peterhead
  • SMEs in manufacturing and engineering are researching diversification opportunities in supporting the fishing and oil sectors - mainly in the development of existing equipment that can be applied to support offshore technologies and products needed for development of these industries.

  • identification of future needs in supply chain requirements of major companies in fish processing; textiles; engineering and oil and gas.

  • review and position other sectoral opportunities, e.g., small scale call centres & back office operations.

Highlands and Islands
  • Aquaculture - the sub-sector, non-salmonid marine finfish is currently being expanded. The main candidates are cod, haddock and halibut. This means less dependence on salmon for those local economies dependent on this type of farming as a source of employment. In 2002, 45 direct FTEs (at good salary levels) have already been created - worth 1.2 million to local HIE area.

  • The Local Authority is investigating potential sites for developing marine aquaculture. The East Coast, however is more limited than the West coast of Scotland in the production of finfish species due to the North Sea's physico-chemical characteristics and will probably start will pilot projects on shellfish production units in some of the sheltered harbours. This can offer diversification opportunities to local economies that were more dependent on the capture fisheries and have existing infrastructure, i.e. sheltered harbours and nearby processing facilities.

  • 300,000 over the next two years is to be directed at promoting Orkney's case for a container transhipment port in Scapa Flow - UK's largest deep water port - in order to develop this area as the transhipment hub in northern Europe (just 10 miles from the Scottish (UK) coast).

Development of recreation sector

North East
  • promotion of alternative diving sites to West Coast for SUBAQUA enthusiasts, e.g., Boddam, Caterline, Crawton and Rosehearty.

  • promotion of existing harbours that were built for traditional fishing as places to visit by sailing vessels.

  • promotion of marine leisure activities, such as surfing and wind-surfing.

  • - improved parking and facilities for visitors has helped to promote its many beaches.

Development of tourism sector

Moray Firth/North Kessock


  • Dolphin Watch - increased number of boat (many diversified from fishing) operators running trips for visitors to see dolphins and seals in their natural habitats. Licensing scheme being introduced to monitor the number of operators and ensure sustainable levels of tourism.

  • new research project due to be launched in September 2002 by the University of Aberdeen on the migration patterns of dolphins along the Aberdeenshire coastline will also consider related benefits of tourism to the area.

North East

  • development of a network of visitor "nodes", e.g., Aberdeen Beachfront, Fish markets, Macduff Aquarium, Maritime History Museum, Maritime Heritage Centre and Peterhead Power Station.

  • re-establishment of heritage trail.

  • improved marketing aimed at increasing the number of tourists attracted by birdlife (25% of tourists in 1996) - marketing brochure "Shetland the Natural Choice" produced.

  • target increased interest in whale watching.

  • promotion of Shetland as a good location for festivals, e.g., annual folk festival gaining in popularity.

South East (Eyemouth and North Berwick)
  • new interpretation and visitor information centre at Eyemouth harbour and fish market.

  • investigating potential for museum on historical fishing and sailing vessels.

  • the Seabird Centre at North Berwick has attracted many visitors and suggests an increasing demand for bird watching opportunities by tourists. Its popularity is largely due to the cameras that operate 24 hours a day which can be rotated and the zoom changed by visitors to allow the best views of local seabirds. The success of the RSPB Capercaillie Watch also suggests bird watching is a sector of the tourism market that could be further developed in Scotland.

St Andrews
  • golf - St Andrews Bay Resort (opened August 2002) - a 520-acre patch of cliff top farmland two miles south of St Andrews has been transformed into an American-style hotel, conference centre and golf resort. This project is forecast to increase the number of golf enthusiasts to the area and more than 150 full-time jobs and a potential injection of at least 14m annually into the local economy.

West Coast
  • promotion of back-packing opportunities to overseas visitors.

Case Studies C and D: Sustainable community development


8.32 Several authors have highlighted that rural and marginal areas in Scotland are experiencing significant forms of socio-economic disadvantage. Atterton (2001) in particular, has suggested that the productive potential of many marginal areas in Scotland has been undermined by the decline of traditional activities such as agriculture forestry and fishing and by the greater degree of economic exposure created though the development of global markets. This has left many rural areas towards what Gertler (1994) describes as a "crises in the social fabric of rural communities". This crises has become characterised by declining economic opportunities, the erosion of community confidence and social exclusion.

8.33 In response to these concerns, there has been a notable shift in recent government policy towards the promotion of integrated rural development schemes which are built around a recognition of a need to empower local communities whilst at the same time allowing only for minimal government intervention. This is perhaps most apparent in the Scottish 'Rural White Paper' (Scottish Office, 1995) and 'Rural Scotland: a New Approach' (Scottish Executive, 2000b), both of which highlight a commitment to the development of rural partnerships.

8.34 As highlighted earlier in the report, however, rural partnership schemes in Scotland have achieved mixed degrees of effectiveness. Whilst many schemes have encouraged community based economic development projects, a series of concerns have been highlighted relating to a lack of true endogenous development, limited community involvement and overly top-down administrative structures (Chapman, 1996).

8.35 In the case studies which follow, we consider the extent to which local economic development partnerships on the Scottish coastline have been able to overcome some of the failings of earlier initiatives and whether they represent appropriate models for the promotion of sustainable coastal communities.

Case study C: Eyemouth and East Berwickshire Partnership

8.36 The New Ways Eyemouth and East Berwickshire Partnership (EEBP) is an example of a Local Rural Partnership (LRP) that has been proactive in developing innovative ways of tackling some of the social and economic challenges facing the East Berwickshire coastal area. The main settlements covered by the partnership include Ayton, Burnmouth, Cockburnspath, Coldingham, Grantshouse, Reston and St Abbs. The partnership has three core aims:

1. to develop community initiative business support mechanisms;
2. to encourage initiatives which provide economic benefits and improve the quality of life;
3. to promote and develop the sustainable use of the environmental and cultural heritage of the area.

8.37 The EEBP was formally launched on 6 February 2001 as a new joint partnership between Scottish Borders Council, Scottish Enterprise Borders and the Scottish Borders Rural Partnership. The partnership evolved out of both a recognition of the benefits to be gained through joint public agency and community working and through an awareness that communities in the coastal region faced a variety of development needs. These are summarised by the partnership as:

  • The need to ensure the integrated delivery of regeneration actions and facilitate access for communities and businesses to built-in local services and initiatives which address the social, economic, and environmental issues facing the area.

  • The need to promote the growth of new and existing businesses so that traditional industries such as fishing are supported whilst opportunities are pursued which widen the economic base.

  • The need to make improvements to both the natural and built environment in order to improve the aesthetic value of the area.

  • The need to improve the quality of life.

  • The need to provide training, education and skills development in order to assist individuals in reaching their full potential.

8.38 Although the partnership is in the early phases of development, it has already responded to the development needs highlighted above by launching a series of grant schemes to help businesses and communities in the area after successfully obtaining 220,000 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The grants seek to provide between 15% and 100% of project costs depending on the scheme. Currently funding can be obtained under three schemes. The first is a community grant scheme designed to support local small-scale actions to improve the quality of life of life in the local communities. Eligible projects might include the development of innovative community facilities, countryside development projects, local access projects, community transport projects and environmental sustainability projects, such as recycling. The second grant scheme is geared towards small- scale infrastructure development aimed at improving the quality of the physical environment. It is envisaged that under the scheme projects could be undertaken to improve footpaths, cycleways, interpretation and disabled access. The final grant scheme seeks to promote tourist related business activity through the development of e-commerce and improved business partnerships.

Evaluation of effectiveness of the EEBP

8.39 To date there has been no formal evaluation of the effectiveness of the scheme and therefore it is difficult to establish the extent to which it represents an effective development model for other areas of the Scottish coastline. As highlighted in section three of this report, Local Rural Partnerships have achieved mixed degrees of effectiveness in Scotland. Clearly if the scheme is to provide genuine support for coastal communities, then it must ensure that it overcomes the various failings encountered under previous LRP schemes.

8.40 One positive step towards improved performance has been a commitment on behalf of the EEBP to performance monitoring. The effectiveness of the various projects is to be evaluated against a sustainable development framework established by the Scottish Borders Economic Forum. This framework requires the collection of data relating to indicators such as economic well-being and business and community confidence.

Case study D: Initiative at the Edge/Iomairt aig an Oir

8.41 The Initiative at the Edge/Iomairt aig an Oir Edge is a development programme launched as a catalyst to encourage communities, public agencies and Government to work together to produce actions to improve some of Scotland's most distant and fragile communities, many of which are coastally based. The Initiative was established in 1997 and currently covers eight communities: Uig and Bernera, Bays of Harris, Lochboisdale and Eriskay (all in the Western Isles), Colonsay, Ardnamurchan, North Sutherland, and the Orkney islands of Westray and Papa Westray. The programme commenced after Scottish Office Ministers acknowledged that communities in peripheral areas, such as the Highlands and Islands, were suffering from long term, persistent population decline, linked to associated impacts such as limited economic activity and reduced opportunities for social development. It was also felt that many communities had failed to gain full access to the resources provided by the main support agencies and needed assistance. The support agencies involved in the Initiative are Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Homes, the Crofters Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage and local authorities.

8.42 The initiative aims to achieve sustainable development through community and multi-agency partnerships. In order to achieve this, a series of operational objectives have been adopted. These are:

  • to reduce geographic and social isolation;

  • to restore a more stable demographic structure;

  • to increase and diversify local economic activity;

  • to improve community confidence;

  • to integrate the actions of agencies in the pursuit of the objectives.

8.43 The management of the Initiative is divided into a number of organisational layers with associated responsibilities. These are as follows:

  • a national steering group charged with overall strategic direction;

  • a local agency steering group to co-ordinates work across each of the Initiative areas;

  • a national co-ordinator to provide co-ordination across the eight designated areas and acts as a link between the national steering group and local level management;

  • a local steering committee to oversee project development, implementation and administration.

8.44 The extent of activity to date across the eight initiative areas is outlined in table 8.3. The table reveals that some project areas have made more progress than others. Nevertheless, it is clear that overall the initiative has encouraged a wide range of activities geared towards the promotion of sustainable communities. In summary, these include increased employment opportunities, training and skills development, infrastructure improvements, and the provision of interpretation facilities.

Table 8.3 Extent of activity within the eight designated areas of the initiative

Designated Area



The sustainable management of the Sunart Oakwood has provided training opportunities and helped to provide employment for local people. The project also encouraged the involvement of local schools.

A training and skills project has been undertaken to enable local people to take advantage of employment opportunities generated by the increasing amount of activity in the area.

Bays of Harris

Two jetties have been repaired and the expansion of a pier has been proposed to support fishing activities.


Limited project advancement has been achieved to date. However, there are plans to improve access to the Island and develop housing association houses.


A community appraisal has recently been completed. Projects highlighted for promotion include funding for a youth worker to run a café for young people and the development of a historical interpretation centre.


Work to date has focused on establishing procedural mechanisms rather than advancing projects. However, proposals exist for improved sport and leisure facilities, along with a new Learning Centre to help locals strengthen skills.

North Sutherland

Community development has largely been informed by the Dùthchas programme (an EU assisted initiative geared to the identification of local approaches to sustainable rural development - completed March 2001). As a result, the community has limited its involvement with the Initiative at the Edge so as to avoid duplication of effort. Now that the Dùthchas programme has finished, a transitional phase is in progress which will see the advancement of earlier work under the guidance of the Initiative at the Edge.

Uig and


Projects being progressed include the improvement of facilities for existing and prospective businesses, upgrades to harbours and piers, renovation and extension to an outdoor centre, and the promotion of tourism opportunities.

Papa Westray

& Westray

In Papa Westray limited progress has been made but a community facility has recently been opened and proposals exist for an interpretation/craft centre along with housing and pier improvements.

In Westray a Youth Drop-In Centre has been opened along with a play area for young children.

Evaluation of effectiveness of the Initiative at the Edge programme

8.45 An interim evaluation of the initiative has been undertaken by EKOS (2001). The assessment suggested that the initiative has made only a limited contribution to the regeneration of the eight project areas. The underlying ethos, concept and management approach were thought to be sound, but problems were noted relating to operation. The main strengths and weaknesses of the initiative are highlighted in table 8.4. In summary, whilst the table shows that the scheme has been successful in raising awareness, promoting capacity building and generating projects, overall performance has been let down by poor management and procedural monitoring.

8.46 Despite such concerns, however, the report does identify the development plan produced by the Westray community as an example of good practice. The plan sets out a ten year strategic vision accounting for both problems and opportunities facing the community. Key features of the plan include the use of assessment criteria to help prioritise projects and the use of delegated facilitators to oversee sub-themes of the plan. This latter feature was noted to have had a significant impact upon the fostering of good will and wider voluntary effort.

Table 8.4 Relative performance of the Initiative at the Edge programme



Increased community interest, awareness and participation

Lack of an agreed and coherent approach

Attraction of project funding through the Social Inclusion Partnership

Poorly understood management structure

Acceleration of project activity through seedcorn funding

Poor performance of the national steering group

Local development officers (LDOs) have added valuable capacity to community groups

Failure of a significant proportion of agencies and organisation to commit to the programme

High level of project activity in comparison with other programmes

Lack of action plan development

Absence of adequate monitoring and performance

Source: adapted from EKOS, 2001

8.47 Overall, this section of the report has attempted to indicate the extent to which innovative regional development opportunities exist within Scottish coastal areas and whether such initiatives provide effective responses to the various processes of socio-economic change which impact upon coastal communities. In summary, the evaluation of the four case studies reveals a mixed picture. Whilst the first two case studies suggest that activities such as aquaculture and tourism study may form part of a necessary process of economic transition for communities traditionally dependent upon fishing, it is also clear that economic diversification will only be successful if there is an appropriate degree of community awareness, commitment and support. Similarly, although the two sustainable community development models provide welcome responses to concerns over social disadvantage, there is a concern that they may struggle to overcome many of the failings characteristic of local economic partnerships throughout Scotland.

8.48 In the light of these findings we suggest there is a need to:

  • improve dissemination of lessons learnt;

  • renew community confidence in local economic development;

  • provide appropriate recruitment and training packages to enable economic diversification to take place;

  • achieve an effective balance between community involvement and state or agency intervention;

  • develop clear strategic management frameworks;

  • generate a greater level of commitment to performance monitoring.

8.49 Part of the responsibility in responding to these needs will fall to the Scottish Executive. As we have highlighted throughout this report, there has been minimal interest to date in considering the socio-economic experiences of coastal communities. As part of the development of any future national coastal management framework, it is important that mechanisms are set in place for promoting, managing and monitoring coastal economic development programmes.