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.

6 Conclusion

The Scottish Government Scottish Islands Typology (2024) illustrates the diverse nature of Scotland’s islands and provides a new classification system which policy makers may wish to use when considering the impact of their work on island communities. The development of this typology supports the commitment in the National Islands Plan (Scottish Government, 2019) to improve available data about islands to help inform action and policy to support the needs of islands.

The typology identifies ten island types, based on comparisons of population, local amenities, and access to mainland Scotland via ferry:

  • Connected Independent Islands
  • Independent Hub Islands
  • Independent Outer Isles
  • Reliant Inner Isles
  • Reliant Outer Isles
  • Semi-Reliant Isles
  • Outpost Islands
  • Mainland-Connected Islands
  • Unserviced Islands
  • Previously Inhabited Islands

These categories are not intended to act as a hierarchy. Instead the categories and accompanying descriptors provide context to those wishing to consider the differing needs and opportunities in this diverse range of islands, for example when considering policy development and implementation. Specifically, the Scottish Government Scottish Islands Typology can be used by those conducting Island Communities Impact Assessments (ICIAs). For example, the typology could be used to support the design of a community consultation approach. It could also be used to assess whether any consultation exercise has gathered feedback from a diverse range of islands and what additional factors might need to be considered where information might be missing.

More widely the typology can provide a useful framework for considering how policy might be effectively implemented in island areas. 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.

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. Information on wider resources is available in Chapter 1.4 of this report, with the Scottish Islands Data Dashboard (2023) providing a valuable overview of a range of existing data in the island context. The Excel data sheet published alongside this report also provides an additional resource for researchers.

Scotland’s islands are home to living communities which change and evolve over time. The Scottish Government Scottish Islands Typology (2024) uses a framework which allows updating and leaves room for additional factors which affect island life to be considered. For example, including additional data on transport, demographic make-up, or community owned assets could allow this baseline typology to be used for specific purposes to illustrate and understand the diverse nature of Scotland’s islands.



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