Why was the research needed?
The lack of data about Scotland’s islands was recognised in the National Islands Plan (Scottish Government, 2019) and a number of measures have been taken to tackle this in recent years. Data which gives us a better understanding of Scotland’s islands can help measure progress against the strategic objectives of the National Islands Plan. It can also be used more widely in policy development, including to inform Island Communities Impact Assessments which are a statutory requirement under Chapter 7 of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018. Measures to obtain more island-level data have involved repurposing existing data sets using the Scottish Island Regions (2023) geography as well as collecting primary data in the Scottish Islands Survey. However, there remain gaps in our understanding about some key aspects affecting daily life in the islands and key similarities and differences between islands. The research presented here addresses these gaps by collating information on local amenities and ferry services in the islands and using this and existing population data to create a new way of categorising Scotland’s islands. The resulting Scottish Government Scottish Islands Typology (2024) offers a new way to consider the differences and similarities between Scotland’s islands which could provide a useful alternative framework for those working with and for island communities.
What did we do?
Using Gow’s Typology of Scotland’s Islands (Gow et al., 2023) as a model, data about key local amenities and ferry connectivity was collated for each of the islands in the Scottish Island Regions (2023) geography. This was combined with population data from the 1981 and 2011 censuses to create a picture of the capacity available on each island. Islands were then compared to each other to identify similarities and differences and grouped into ten classes based on these factors. This analysis was used to produce the Scottish Government Scottish Islands Typology (2024). The ten island types are summarised in this report. The underlying data on population, local amenities, and ferry access has also been made available.
What did we learn?
Scotland is home to a diverse range of islands which have varying levels of access to people, goods and services. This is affected by what is available in the island and by the ferry connections the island has access to. Islands within the same region or local authority area can be very different from each other in this regard and there is value in understanding the differences between islands in close proximity and the connections that can be made between similar islands which are geographically distant from each other.
The Scottish Government will continue to develop island-level data sources and use these to monitor progress against the National Islands Plan’s strategic objectives and to contribute to policy making.
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