Author: Prof Donald Gillies, York St John University

Day Two – Wednesday 26th June

Strand – Identity and Place

Session Six: 2.45pm – 4.15pm

Rural depopulation is a worldwide phenomenon, as industrialization, urbanization, and globalization have exerted increasing pressure over the last two centuries. In addition to the effects of these worldwide changes, however, concern has also been expressed that state policy, often influenced by centralising tendencies and the imperatives of efficiency, has served to exacerbate the plight of vulnerable communities.

This paper reports on a study of a Scottish Hebridean island which has suffered considerable depopulation in the last century. While attending closely to the specifics of this particular location, the study argues that the findings will resonate with other similarly-placed communities in the countries of the UK, and, indeed, worldwide.

The project, funded by the British Academy and the ESRC, sought to explore the extent to which the education system could be implicated in the island’s depopulation. There were three methods employed: document analysis (school roll and census data for 1901-2000); a questionnaire probing post-school decision-making of a sample of school pupils (1941-2000); and an open public meeting.

The study found that 86% of school pupils subsequently left the island, with further education cited as the main reason for leaving.  However, the data suggests that it was lack of suitable employment that kept them away. The study concludes that while the education system is implicated in initial out-migration, it is the economics of employment that is the key, underlying factor.

Please click here to download presentation.