Scottish Islands Typology: overview 2024

This report outlines the Scottish Islands Typology (2024). It classifies Scotland’s islands into ten categories based on combinations of population, access to local amenities, and access to mainland Scotland. It offers an alternative way to compare the differences and similarities between islands.

Executive summary

Rothesay, Bute

This report provides an overview of the Scottish Government Scottish Islands Typology (SIT) 2024 which offers a new way to compare Scotland’s islands to each other using data on population, local amenities, and ferry connections to mainland Scotland. The development of the Scottish Islands Typology (2024) responds to the commitment set out in the National Islands Plan to “review the availability, usefulness of, and the wider barriers to, island level data both at an individual island level, groups of islands and consider the creation of a ‘Scottish islands’ data level in order to better understand the challenges faced by island communities”.

The Scottish Government Scottish Islands Typology (2024) uses factors which have a direct impact on daily life in Scotland islands in order to identify differences and similarities between islands. In doing so it complements existing location-based categorisations, such as local authority areas and the Scottish Island Regions (2023) geography, in order to highlight differences between islands in close proximity to each other and similarities between islands which are geographically distant. The resulting ten categories identified in the typology provide a useful framework for those seeking to understand the diversity of Scotland’s islands in a research and policy context.

Within the typology, population has been used to identify the potential human capacity available in an island and the potential market size, which may affect the willingness or ability of those based elsewhere to provide goods and services to an island. An assessment of basic amenities in the islands has been used as an indicator of island residents’ ability to fulfil some of the basic needs of daily life without relying on ferry travel, while scheduled ferry connections to mainland Scotland have been used to indicate the access island residents have to goods and services located elsewhere.

The resulting Scottish Government Scottish Islands Typology (2024) covers 161 islands which are permanently surrounded on all sides by the sea (ignoring artificial structures such as bridges) including all of the islands covered by the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018. It highlights that Scotland is home to a diverse range of islands which have varying levels of access to people, goods and services, and that islands within the same region or local authority area can be very different from each other in this regard. As such it provides a useful framework for considering how policy might be effectively implemented in island areas and might be of specific use to those conducting Island Communities Impact Assessments (ICIAs). For example, it can help identify islands which may struggle with approaches which focus on building skills within a community due to capacity issues or identify islands which might face additional barriers in relying on external providers due to the access provided by ferry connections to mainland Scotland.

This document also provides an overview of how islands compare to each other in terms of the individual factors of population, local amenities, and ferry connections.

The Scottish Government Scottish Islands Typology (2024) is part of a suite of resources published by the Scottish Government to support those working with, in, and for Scotland’s islands, including the Scottish Islands Data Dashboard (2023) and the Scottish Island Regions (2023) geography.



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