Japan island depopulation: lessons for Scotland

This research report - commissioned from a team based at Scotland's Rural College - explores policy approaches to depopulation on Japan's islands, and proposes a series of recommendations to the Scottish Government which may help inform the development of future island depopulation.


1. For example, as seen in debates around the issues of 'rewilding' and 'repeopling' in relation to some of the large Highland estates in Scotland (see for example, Repeopling.pdf (reforestingscotland.org) and work by Community Land Scotland on this topic: Renewal and repopulation (communitylandscotland.org.uk).

2. The population of rural Scotland makes up approximately 17% of Scotland's total population (with 6% in remote rural areas and 11% in accessible rural areas) and 98% of its landmass (with 70% remote rural and 28% accessible rural).

3. The count is 6,852 islands according to the definition of Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (Japanese Remote Island Centre 2017). However, the numbers of 'islands' are different depending on definition employed at the time of measurement (e.g., policy, regulation, weather condition, volcano action etc.). The five main islands include Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, Hokkaido and Okinawa main island.

4. Kuwahara (2012) reports that the term "backwardness" was used in the Remote Island Development Act (see below for overview of the Act).

5. The work of Community Land Scotland on community land ownership and repopulation may be worth exploring here: Renewal and repopulation (communitylandscotland.org.uk).

6. For more information on this, please see: Blog: Is the government doing enough to stave off the cost-of-living crisis in rural areas? - ACRE and Cost of living crisis: 'People heating one room with firewood' - Rural Services Network (rsnonline.org.uk).

7. For further information on these Acts see Kuwahara (2012).

8. For an island example see Kutsuna Island Akiya Bank.

9. An example can be found on Shimane Prefecture's migrant support website. 

10. 'Pork-barrel' politics refers to the use of funds for projects in certain areas to garner political support for a particular candidate or party.

11. Sabhal Mòr Ostaig: when culture drives economy - LGiU

12. We acknowledge that we cannot make direct comparisons across Japanese and Scottish ruralities. In Scotland a 'remote rural area' is more than 30 minutes drivetime to a settlement of 10,000 people or more while an 'accessible rural area' is less than 30 minutes.


Email: population@gov.scot

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