The National Islands Plan Survey has significantly improved the availability of data held about Scotland's islands. It has provided baseline data against which to measure the effectiveness of the Plan. This report has presented the overall findings and further analysis of the data will be completed by the Scottish Government to look at aspects of the data in more detail.
A number of the findings appear to contradict assumptions that are sometimes made about Scotland's island residents. Just one in five island respondents works in more than one paid job or business; Scottish Gaelic and Orkney and Shetland dialects are spoken more widely among young respondents than older respondents; and the majority of respondents plan to stay on their island for at least the next five years.
Nevertheless, respondents feel there is a lack of support for young people to remain, move or return to the islands. The data reveals that respondents feel there are a lack of employment, training and higher education opportunities and a lack of childcare options to fit with residents' working patterns. Respondents also feel there is a poor variety of housing types, sizes and tenures to meet people's needs and a lack of affordable housing. Respondents also have mixed experiences of accessing healthcare services and of speed and reliability of internet connections.
Yet, the data also suggests that in many ways the islands are a good place to live. Respondents rate their environment very highly and there are many green and blue spaces for people to enjoy. There is a good sense of community and belonging, however, respondents do feel they have little influence over decisions made by local and national government.
Many respondents agreed that there is investment in cultural and historic places and facilities but feel there is inadequate infrastructure for the number of tourists they attract. Respondents believe there is a high proportion of holiday lets and second homes in their local areas but recognise that tourism is a good source of employment opportunities.
The findings highlight that experiences of island life vary considerably by island group. Differences are particularly striking between residents of Orkney Mainland and Outer Isles, and Shetland Mainland and Outer Isles, with "mainland" islanders generally more positive about a range of measures. These differences may be attributable to proximity to a small town (associated with access to services and more diverse economies) and direct access to mainland Scotland from the "mainland" islands, unlike in the outer islands.
Different age groups, too, have distinct experiences of island life, and a young person's views can contrast with those of an older person living in the same island group. This is especially true of perceptions of opportunities for population growth and economic development, about which younger respondents are more positive.