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.


1. Based on the 2020-based interim national population projections: year ending June 2022 estimated international migration variant published in January 2023. This is the latest population projections release which covered both UK and Scotland figures.

2. National Records of Scotland, 2018, Population Projections for Scottish Areas 2018-Based.

3. Pinilla and Saez (2021), What Do Public Policies Teach us About Rural Depopulation: The Case Study of Spain. European Countryside, 13(2), p. 341.

4. Scottish Land Commission (2019), Repeopling Emptied Places.

5. Highlands and Islands Enterprise (2022), Rural and Regional Disadvantage in the Highlands and Islands, Executive Summary

6. Scotland’s Rural College (2020), “Case Studies of Repopulation Initiatives Final Report

7. Both tenant and owner occupier crofters have a duty: (i) to be ordinarily resident on, or within 32 kilometres of, the croft (ii) to cultivate and maintain the croft, and (iii) not to misuse and neglect the croft – Crofters Duties | Crofting Commission (

8. Whilst owner-occupiers of vacant crofts do not have statutory duties, the Commission in 2021 adopted a policy that all vacant crofts should be occupied and cultivated, or put to another purposeful use. Although the duties enforcement provisions set out at section 26A to section 26K of the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 [“the 1993 Act”] do not apply to owner-occupiers of vacant crofts, the Commission do have the statutory authority under section 23(5) of the 1993 Act to give notice requiring both landlords and owner-occupiers of vacant crofts to submit proposals for letting the croft whether as a separate croft or as an enlargement of another croft.

Following adoption of the above policy the Commission allocated additional resources to its Residency and Land Use Team, which has allowed them to develop processes that will enable them to deal with cases where reports have been receive regarding owner-occupiers of vacant crofts that are not resident on and/or not working their crofts.

9. James Hutton Institute, Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (2021), Measuring inclusive growth in the Highlands and Islands: a typology.



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