Supporting and enabling sustainable communities: action plan to address depopulation

This Action Plan newly establishes a strategic policy position for Scottish Government around addressing depopulation and maps a range of new and existing supportive activity being undertaken across Scottish Government and by local and regional delivery partners.

07 Annex A – List of actions

Page Action Owner
10 We will harness sub-local authority data from the 2022 Scottish Census, when it becomes available in 2024, to review this plan to further inform the development and delivery of targeted, community-level interventions. Scottish Government
12 As required by the Act, the National Islands Plan will be fully reviewed in 2023-2024 to make sure it is fit for purpose. This will help us to ensure our islands policy and support continues to prioritise the actions which will best improve outcomes for communities. If the analysis of the review determines it appropriate, the Scottish Government will develop a revised National Islands Plan in 2024-2025 that will help to ensure that we continue to deliver our ambitions and to realise our vision for thriving, sustainable and successful island communities. Scottish Government
17 With only minor exceptions when it provides a statistical, and very specific role, such as the Urban-Rural Classification Index, the Scottish Government will no longer refer to rural and island communities as “remote”. Scottish Government
24 We will harness the expertise of the Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population to develop evaluation criteria grounded in the reality of the operating environment of the actions and interventions newly set out within this Action Plan. Scottish Government
24 We will work with partners and communities to collectively set agreed parameters for evaluation, reflecting that the Scottish Government’s idea of a successful intervention may differ from the priorities identified by a community or local delivery partners. Scottish Government
24 We will establish an Addressing Depopulation Delivery Group to monitor and report on the delivery of the actions outlined within this Action Plan. We will invite the broad range of partners involved in delivery to participate, including: the Scottish Government, COSLA, local authorities involved in the delivery of Community Settlement Officer roles, enterprise agencies, and community interest representatives. Scottish Government
24 We will work with partners to design a Population Impact Assessment, to be used by decision-makers across the public sector to meaningfully assess the impact of new investment or interventions, including considering the direct impact (i.e. of an intervention in the place where it is being delivered), but also indirect impacts (whether interventions would be better delivered elsewhere in line with overarching population strategic aims). Scottish Government
24 We will evaluate the outputs and outcomes of this Action Plan, and engage the Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population, and wider stakeholders, to independently consider and advise on potential next steps to further support effective evaluation of this work. Scottish Government
27 We will build on existing agreements with the academic community in Aragón in pursuit of shared objectives in addressing demographic challenges. Harnessing the feedback from stakeholders and building on learning from the evidence base, we will proactively implement a flexible, community- driven approach to the design and delivery of policy interventions. Scottish Government
27 We will, with Scottish partners, harness opportunities and maintain linkages with the NSPA to inform domestic policy making. Scottish Government
29 We will continue to support locally-led repopulation initiatives in areas like Argyll and Bute, Na h-Eileanan Siar, the Highlands, and North Ayrshire, and work with local and regional partners through the Convention of the Highlands and Islands. Furthermore, we will look to support local initiatives in the South of Scotland and work with the Convention of the South of Scotland to ensure success for this area. Scottish Government
29 We will work with Youth Scotland and the Young Islanders Network to meet the Network’s commitment to consider “how to best address population decline through co-developing ideas and actions to support and encourage young people to remain on, move to or return to the islands”. We will also explore opportunities to engage with young people in other areas affected by population decline, to better understand why young people are leaving certain communities for elsewhere. Scottish Government
34 We will work with COSLA to design and deliver solutions, ensuring the strengths of both local and national government are used to best effect to make the biggest possible positive difference to areas facing challenges around population.

Scottish Government, COSLA

34 We will jointly fund the continuation of existing Community Settlement Officer roles for the 2023/24 financial year, in partnership with local authorities. Highlands and Islands Enterprise will continue to support delivery through existing programmes in operation within Community Settlement Officer geographies.

Scottish Government, Local Authorities

34 We will partner with Inverclyde Council to deliver a Community Settlement Officer focused on addressing depopulation in Inverclyde. Scottish Government
34 We will provide funding for Dumfries & Galloway Council to undertake research with regards to local population outcomes. Scottish Government
34 We will also establish an Addressing Depopulation Fund, to support local authorities to implement varied pathfinder measures to address depopulation challenges. In keeping with the ambitions within this Action Plan and the Verity House Agreement, we will be flexible in enabling local government to use the funding to address local need. Scottish Government
40 We will take forward the Regional Economic Policy review recommendation to develop a more nuanced allocation methodology for regional funding. Scottish Government
40 We will, when developing new regional economic strategies, engage with and support Regional Economic Partnerships which are facing challenges around population decline, to note relevant work ongoing across the regions that would contribute to national outcomes and support population attraction and retention. Scottish Government
40 We will support regional empowerment and growth by acting on the recommendations of the Regional Economic Policy Review, and working with Local Government and other partners to develop Scotland’s network of Regional Economic Partnerships, supporting our rural and island businesses, including tourism. Scottish Government
40 We will work with community partners in developing a Rural Movement that will ensure all voices are heard and able to effect change. Scottish Government
42 We will deliver Growth Deals across their agreed delivery period, and at an appropriate point evaluate the projects delivered as part of the Deal. Scottish Government
42 We will continue working with UK Government and partners to progress to Full Growth Deal signing for Argyll and Bute. Scottish Government
42 We will seek to open Inverness Castle to the public by Financial Year 2025/26, as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal. Scottish Government
42 We will continue to construct new homes as part of the Deal’s Affordable Housing Project, to attract and retain economically active people to live and work in the Highlands. Scottish Government
43 We will continue to work closely with the two selected Green Freeports in Scotland (Forth and Inverness and Cromarty Firth), to ensure that they deliver maximum positive impact as soon as possible. Scottish Government
43 We will continue to explore opportunities to support local enterprise in order to strengthen the evidence base for the relationship between diverse, healthy local economies and sustainable populations. Scottish Government
45 We will engage further with COSLA, the CPIB, the Community Planning Network to agree collective next steps around community planning. Scottish Government
45 We will support local government and community planning, including through Scottish Government Place Directors, aligned to the ambitions set out in the Verity House Agreement, including supporting areas which are facing issues relating to population. Scottish Government
47 We will work to increase rural youth participation in community councils, to empower young people to inform improvements to services in their area, making rural communities more attractive places to live and work. Scottish Government
47 We will support Social Media/Content Creation Training for local community council members to encourage greater engagement and a stronger voice in improving local services. This will include the provision of 10 websites for rurall- and islands-based community councils, that meet accessibility legislation and will be of particular benefit to local people who have additional needs because of disability. Scottish Government
47 We will develop specific rural and islands website content to improve access to opportunities for education, training, or employment. Scottish Government
48 We will build on engagement with international stakeholders on remote working and hub networks, such as the Government of Ireland’s Connected Hubs Programme, to identify potential benefits of a more strategic approach to rural hub development, and consider their application in Scotland. Scottish Government
48 We will develop a “Route Map” for sharing best practice for community- driven partnership working across Scotland. Scottish Government
51 We will deliver 110,000 affordable homes of which at least 70% will be for social rent and 10% in rural and island areas, supported by our Rural and Island Housing Action Plan, to help attract and retain people to communities. Scottish Government
51 We will make available up to £25 million from our Affordable Housing Supply Programme budget over the period 2023-2028, for the demand-led Rural Affordable Housing for Key Workers Fund, to enable local authorities and registered social landlords to purchase properties in rural and island areas which can be rented directly or leased to employers to provide affordable homes for key workers. Scottish Government
51 We will work with local authorities, enterprise agencies and business representatives including private developers to improve understanding of housing requirements arising from key sectors. We will seek to enable more housing provision through sharing of good practice and collaboration between employers and housing providers. Scottish Government
51 We will work with the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, local authorities and owners to bring more empty homes in rural and island areas back into use, promoting available funding options, sharing best practice and identify opportunities for stronger collaboration. Scottish Government
51 We will invest £566 million in 2024-25 through our Affordable Housing Supply Programme as we continue to support the delivery of affordable homes to meet housing needs across Scotland. Scottish Government
52 We will continue to provide support of up to £30 million for the continuation of the demand-led Rural and Island Housing Fund, supporting communities, landowners and other eligible organisations in the provision of affordable housing, through early feasibility funding as well as grant support. This is in addition to housing delivery by local authorities and Registered Social Landlords through the mainstream Affordable Housing Supply Programme. Scottish Government
52 We will develop guidance to support communities, local authorities and others to undertake local housing assessments based on best practice and robust methodology. Scottish Government
57 We will consider how to take forward the STPR2 recommendations as part of the STPR2 Delivery Plan. Scottish Government
57 We will publish the Fair Fares Review which will recommend a package of measures which can be considered for implementation from 2024-25 and onwards. These will provide opportunities to address the wider issues for the cost and availability of public transport services across all modes of public transport. Scottish Government
57 We will publish the report on Population and Household Location research commissioned by the Scottish Government, completed in August 2023. This will be followed by further research to better understand where digital and transport connectivity improvements are needed, by whom and for what purpose, to inform potential future decision-making concerning digital connectivity as a substitute for physical transport connectivity. Scottish Government
57 We will utilise the evaluation of the five MIF projects as the evidence base for future policy and investment in MaaS in Scotland. Scottish Government
57 We will progress the dualling of the A9 between Perth and Inverness in line with the delivery plan announced on 20 December 2023, including taking forward the procurement of the Tomatin to Moy project. Scottish Government
57 We will make improvements to the A96, including dualling Inverness to Nairn and the Nairn bypass, and publish the review of the A96 Dualling Programme. Scottish Government
57 We will continue to develop both a long term solution and medium term improvements to the landslip risks at the A83 Rest and Be Thankful, and to press the UK Government to fulfil its commitments to contribute to funding improvements to the A75. Scottish Government
57 We will invest in ferry services to support our island communities, including continuing the construction of six major vessels, port improvements at Lochmaddy and Uig, port enabling works on the Islay routes, and consulting on and completing the Long Term Plan for Vessels and Ports to support our Islands Connectivity Plan. Scottish Government
59 R100 contract build is actively delivering at pace across Scotland. Over 43,000 premises have been connected as a result of the R100 contracts (as at 30 November 2023) with a further 3,639 connections delivered through the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme (as at 01 December 2023). Scottish Government
59 An R100 SBVS funded project to connect almost all properties on Papa Westray to full fibre is using innovative fibre in water pipes technology as part of the build solution. Scottish Government
59 Currently 54 masts in the Scottish 4G Infill programme are live and providing 4G connectivity at rural sites, with the final mast expected to be activated this year. Scottish Government
59 We will work with areas covered by existing Community Settlement Officers to consider local connectivity options and how we can support communities to access these. Scottish Government
59 We will continue to invest over £600 million in the broadband networks of the future, through the Reaching 100% (R100) broadband programme. Scottish Government
59 We will utilise HIE’s review of digital connectivity and further data sharing among Scottish, Welsh and UK Governments to inform further discussions on what connectivity options exist, and how relevant stakeholders can work together to support communities to access these.

Scottish Government, Other

64 We will begin work on local SDS improvement plans with local authorities, in order to improve choice, address barriers to flexible use of SDS and to support local authority leaders to innovate, embed and implement SDS in a way that is beneficial to their population.

Scottish Government, Local Authorities

64 We will distribute in the region of £3 million per year through the Support in the Right Direction programme 2024-2027, investing up to £100,000 per local authority area. Scottish Government
64 We will reopen the Independent Living Fund on a phased basis, with an initial £9 million in 2024-25 to enable up to 1,000 of the most disabled people in Scotland who face the greatest barriers to independent living to access the support they need to lead independent lives. Scottish Government
64 We will progress the National Centre for Remote and Rural Health and Care, launched in October 2023, to improve primary and community services. Scottish Government
67 We will continue our work to design funded all-age childcare, that meets families’ childcare needs, through our early adopter communities, including those in rural and island locations. Scottish Government
67 We will scale up our innovative childminder recruitment pilots to grow this essential part of our workforce by 1,000 more across Scotland. Scottish Government
73 We will publish evaluation of the Island Skills and Repopulation Pilot, including recommendations for next steps. Scottish Government
73 We will publish our response to the report of the independent Commission to Review Land-Based Learning in early 2024. Scottish Government
73 We will launch the Talent Attraction and Migration Service. Scottish Government
73 We will scope options around supporting local attraction programmes delivered by local authorities through the TAMS digital platform, to signpost people interested in moving to specific parts of Scotland to relevant local information. Scottish Government
73 We will support local authorities and employers (e.g. through chambers of commerce and Regional Economic Partnerships) to harness TAMS in support of their local objectives. Scottish Government
73 We will enable local authorities to use Brand Scotland assets where they may support local talent attraction initiatives, building on an existing offer made by the Scottish Government in Spring 2023. The Scottish Government will work with COSLA and local authorities to identify how it can best support these initiatives in line with local priorities. Scottish Government
73 We will continue to advocate for a Rural Visa Pilot scheme. Scottish Government
73 We will commission further research on achieving an effective worker voice for migrant workers in agriculture Scottish Government
74 We will introduce legislation on Community Wealth Building during this Parliamentary term. Scottish Government
74 We will work to build a collective ownership of our Blue Economy and empower key actors to support delivery and mobilise resources. Scottish Government
74 We will support leadership to drive cultural transformation to mainstream a Blue Economy approach across Government, and wider. Scottish Government
74 We will award up to £14 million of grant funding through the Marine Fund Scotland to support projects to deliver improved social, environmental, and economic outcomes in line with our Blue Economy Vision. Scottish Government
75 We will consider how to best utilise our estate to support the ambitions set out within the Population Strategy, while harnessing the opportunities that hybrid working presents to distribute our workforce. Scottish Government
75 We will develop an Estate Strategy allowing us to set out a route map to achieve net zero and ensure buildings are right sized and in the right location, while maximising public sector sharing opportunities. Scottish Government
77 As set out in the Programme for Government 2023 to 2024 we will introduce a Land Reform Bill to the Scottish Parliament. Scottish Government
81 We will reform the law, subject to agreement by the Scottish Parliament, to support the future of crofting. Scottish Government
81 The Crofting Commission will further expand its Residency and Land Use Team, and its remit, enabling it to increase its work in addressing absenteeism and bringing crofts back into active use, which will create opportunities for new entrants. Crofting Commission
81 The Crofting Commission launched a croft succession pilot in Uist & Barra and North-West Sutherland in Autumn/Winter 2023/24. The findings from the succession pilot will enable the Commission to determine a targeted approach to successfully meet the actions in the National Development Plan for Crofting. The Commission will undertake a repeat of the crofting activity survey in 2025, to determine if the number of crofters with a formal succession plan in place has increased. Crofting Commission
81 We will develop and consult on proposals to reform crofting law, create new opportunities for new entrants, encourage the active management and use of crofts and common grazings, and support rural population retention through action on non-residency. Scottish Government
82 We will develop our approach to regional Just Transition plans which will engage communities, business and workers to ensure that we support the sustainability of communities including those affected by population decline. Scottish Government
82 We will embed the work of the independent Just Transition Commission as we gather and listen to the best available evidence when designing our approach. Scottish Government
83 We will co-ordinate a response to the independent report on Economic and Social Opportunities for Gaelic, for the members of the Short Life Working Group which produced the report. Scottish Government
83 We will, through our independent Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population, scope future research about the ways in which Gaelic language and culture and its close association with land, places of learning and socio-economic opportunities can help towards retention of young people. Scottish Government



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