The Scottish Islands Federation 

POPULATION

Scotland's Island Populations.....

At the time of the last census in 2001, there were 95 inhabited Scottish islands with a total population of 99,660. Ten years earlier, there were more than 100,000 people living on islands. Despite this overall decrease in island population, the number of inhabited islands has risen over the last decade - there were only 87 recorded as having permanent populations in the 1991 census.

The 2001 census results reveal that the most populated island in Scotland is the land mass of Lewis and Harris with almost 20,000 residents. However, the Western Isles as a whole have suffered the worst rates of depopulation over the last decade losing more than 3,000 people. Benbecula has suffered one of the worst rates of depopulation a decrease of more than 30% since the last census.

 

Benbecula, Western Isles

Benbecula, Western Isles

The fastest growing island population over the last decade has been on Easdale one of the Slate Islands in Argyll. Here, the population has increased from 41 in 1991 to 58 in 2001 - an increase of 41%. Another island experiencing a healthy rate of population growth has been Arran where the population has increased by more than 600 over the last decade and now stands at over 5,000.

The majority of Scottish islanders are aged between 45 and 59 (almost 25%). The islands with the oldest populations are Lismore and Cumbrae. More than 45% of Lismore residents are aged over 60 and the figure for Cumbrae is over 40%.

Fair Isle and Vatersay boast the highest percentages of younger islanders. On Vatersay, 32% of the population is under the age of 16 and on Fair Isle the figure is almost 29%.

Depopulation is a real threat to many of Scotland's island communities. Over the last 10 years, almost twice as many islands have lost populations as have gained.

Statistical analysis carried out by Eurostat - the European Commission's statistical agency - has found that there is a critical population mass which determines the viability of population growth on islands. If this critical mass is reached, an island tends to experience an increasing population, a relatively large proportion of young people and good provision of public services. This critical population size is between 4,000 and 5,000 inhabitants. Any islands with populations below this level tend to experience net emigration, an ageing population and inadequate provision of facilities.

In 2001, only 6 Scottish islands had populations greater than this critical mass - Arran, Bute, Skye, Mainland Orkney, Mainland Shetland and Lewis & Harris.

St Kilda - uninhabited since 1930

St Kilda - uninhabited since 1930

The following table contains population statistics for all of Scotland's inhabited islands from 1961 to 2001:

Island

Local Authority Area

Population 1961

Population 1971

Population 1981

Population 1991

Population 2001

Ailsa Craig

N. Ayrshire

10

3

2

0

0

Arran

N. Ayrshire

3700

3564

3845

4475

5058

Auskerry

Orkney

3

0

0

0

5

Baleshare

Western Isles

59

64

67

55

49

Barra

Western Isles

1369

1005

1264

1244

1078

Benbecula

Western Isles

1358

1355

1869

1771

1219

Bernera

Western Isles

317

276

278

262

233

Berneray A

Western Isles

201

131

133

141

136

Berneray B

Western Isles

3

6

0

0

0

Black

Highland

0

0

0

0

0

Boreray

Western Isles

5

0

0

0

0

Bound Skerry (& Grunay)

Shetland

3

3

0

0

0

Bressay

Shetland

269

248

334

352

384

Bruray

Shetland

34

35

33

27

26

Burray

Orkney

262

209

283

363

357

Bute

Argyll & Bute

9793

8423

7306

7354

7149

Calve

Argyll & Bute

4

0

0

0

0

Canna

Highland

24

22

11

20

6

Carna

Highland

2

3

0

4

0

Cava

Orkney

0

0

2

2

0

Coll

Argyll & Bute

147

144

131

172

164

Colonsay

Argyll & Bute

164

137

133

98

108

Copinsay

Orkney

3

3

0

0

0

Danna

Argyll & Bute

10

9

7

1

5

Davaar

Argyll & Bute

3

8

4

0

2

Dry

Highland

2

2

9

1

0

Dubh Artach

Argyll & Bute

3

6

0

0

0

Easdale

Argyll & Bute

16

16

32

41

58

East Burra

Shetland

92

64

78

72

66

Eday

Orkney

198

179

147

166

121

Egilsay

Orkney

54

39

23

46

37

Eigg

Highland

74

69

64

69

67

Eilean Ban

Highland

0

0

2

0

2

Eilean Donnan

Highland

5

2

0

0

1

Eilean na Cille

Western Isles

5

4

0

0

0

Ensay

Western Isles

2

2

0

0

0

Eriskay

Western Isles

231

219

201

179

133

Erraid

Argyll & Bute

1

0

0

0

8

EweIsland

Highland

10

10

11

12

12

Fair Isle

Shetland

64

65

58

67

69

Fara

Orkney

5

0

0

0

0

Fetlar

Shetland

127

88

101

90

86

Fladday

Highland

12

0

0

0

0

Flannan

Western Isles

3

3

0

0

0

Flodda

Western Isles

14

9

7

8

11

Flotta

Orkney

123

73

178

126

81

Foula

Shetland

54

33

39

40

31

Gairsay

Orkney

0

7

6

3

3

Gigha

Argyll & Bute

163

174

153

143

110

Gometra

Argyll & Bute

15

10

4

0

5

Graemsay

Orkney

51

39

21

27

21

Great Cumbrae

N. Ayrshire

1638

1296

1300

1393

1434

Grimsay A

Western Isles

13

4

11

24

19

Grimsay B

Western Isles

239

193

204

215

201

Helliar Holm

Orkney

5

0

0

0

0

Holm of Grimbister

Orkney

5

6

0

0

0

Holy Island

N. Ayrshire

7

10

0

0

0

Housay

Shetland

71

63

49

58

50

Hoy

Orkney

511

419

461

450

392

Hyskier

Highland

3

5

0

2

0

Inch Kenneth

Argyll & Bute

13

2

0

0

0

Inchmarnock

Argyll & Bute

6

6

5

0

0

Iona

Argyll & Bute

130

145

122

130

125

Islay

Argyll & Bute

3860

3816

3792

3538

3457

IsleMartin

Highland

0

0

1

1

0

Jura

Argyll & Bute

249

210

228

196

188

Kerrera

Argyll & Bute

42

27

38

39

42

Killegray

Western Isles

0

2

0

0

0

Leiravay

Western Isles

2

0

0

0

0

Lewis & Harris

Western Isles

24107

22222

22476

21737

19918

Lismore

Argyll & Bute

155

166

129

140

146

Little Cumbrae

N. Ayrshire

8

14

6

6

0

Luing

Argyll & Bute

187

151

157

179

212

Lunga

Argyll & Bute

0

0

3

2

7

Mainland Orkney

Orkney

13495

12747

14000

15123

15315

Mainland Shetland

Shetland

13282

12944

17722

17562

17550

Muck

Highland

29

24

20

24

30

Muckle Flugga

Shetland

3

3

0

0

0

Muckle Roe

Shetland

103

94

99

115

104

Mull

Argyll & Bute

2149

2024

2197

2678

2667

Musdile

Argyll & Bute

3

0

0

0

0

North Ronaldsay

Orkney

161

134

109

92

70

North Uist

Western Isles

1620

1469

1399

1404

1271

Noss

Shetland

0

3

0

0

0

Ornsay

Highland

1

0

5

4

0

Oronsay

Argyll & Bute

2

2

3

8

5

Orsay

Argyll & Bute

7

11

0

0

0

Pabay

Highland

7

5

3

0

0

Pabbay

Western Isles

2

4

0

0

0

Papa Stour

Shetland

55

24

33

33

25

Papa Stronsay

Orkney

4

3

0

0

10

Papa Westray

Orkney

139

106

92

85

65

Pentland Skerries

Orkney

3

3

0

0

0

Pladda

N. Ayrshire

6

2

0

2

0

Raasay

Highland

211

163

152

163

192

Rona

Highland

49

3

3

0

2

Rousay

Orkney

237

181

209

217

212

Rum

Highland

40

40

17

26

22

Sanda

Argyll & Bute

7

9

0

0

1

Sanday

Highland

0

11

7

0

6

Sanday

Orkney

670

592

525

533

478

Scalpay

Western Isles

470

483

455

382

322

Scalpay A

Highland

2

5

6

7

10

Scarba

Argyll & Bute

5

0

0

0

0

Scarp

Western Isles

46

12

0

0

0

Seil

Argyll & Bute

303

326

424

506

560

Shapinsay

Orkney

416

346

329

322

300

Shona

Highland

11

17

12

9

9

Shuna A

Argyll & Bute

3

3

7

1

1

Shuna B

Argyll & Bute

1

0

0

0

0

Skerryvore

Argyll & Bute

3

0

3

0

0

Skye

Highland

7478

7183

7269

8843

9232

Soay

Highland

11

5

8

14

7

South Ronaldsay

Orkney

980

776

891

943

854

South Uist

Western Isles

2376

2281

2231

2106

1818

St. Kilda (Hirta)

Western Isles

65

65

9

0

0

Stroma

Highland

12

8

0

0

0

Stronsay

Orkney

497

436

420

382

343

Sule Skerry

Orkney

3

5

1

0

0

Swona

Orkney

3

3

0

0

0

Tanera More

Highland

6

2

0

0

5

Taransay

Western Isles

5

5

0

0

0

Tiree

Argyll & Bute

993

875

757

768

770

Torsa

Argyll & Bute

5

0

0

1

0

Trondra

Shetland

20

17

93

117

133

Ulva

Argyll & Bute

33

23

13

30

16

Unst

Shetland

1148

1124

1140

1055

720

Vaila

Shetland

9

5

0

1

2

Vatersay

Western Isles

95

77

107

72

94

West Burra

Shetland

561

501

767

817

753

Westray

Orkney

872

735

701

704

563

Whalsay

Shetland

764

870

1031

1041

1034

Wyre

Orkney

47

36

21

28

18

Yell

Shetland

1155

1143

1191

1075

957

TOTALS:

 

 

 

 

 

 

133

 

101001

93486

100299

102834

99623

For more information about island population statistics, visit Scotlands Census Results OnLine

The Scottish Islands Federation would like to acknowledge the grant support provided by the Scottish Executive Rural Strategic Support Fund, Leader+, Highland Council, Argyll and Bute Council and North Ayrshire Council.

Scottish Islands Federation 2007
Island Photographs courtesy of
Cailean Maclean

Last modified 08/07/2010