Page last updated at 11:00 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 12:00 UK

New survey probes youth migration

Toby Maclean (Pic: HIE)
Toby MacLean said his quality of life was "second to none"

A new survey will attempt to uncover what makes young people want to stay or leave the Highlands and Islands.

Launched online, the project has been aimed at 15 to 30-year-olds who have been brought up, or moved to the area.

Organisers Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said the region had struggled to retain high numbers of young people.

On the islands, there had been a particular issue with the levels of young women leaving.

The survey's researchers hope for a big response from young people to find out what they think about education, jobs, quality of life and communication in the region.

The findings will form part of a report by HIE into the migration choices of 15 to 30-year-olds and what policies might be needed to increase the numbers of young people choosing to live in the region.

If this region is to remain a great place to live and work we need to understand what the deciding factors are
Ruth Simes
Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Ruth Sime, development manager with HIE's population growth team, said youthful population was a vital part to a "thriving" Highlands and Islands.

She said: "This is the first in-depth online survey which aims to get to the heart of what young people really think and feel about life in the Highlands and Islands.

"If this region is to remain a great place to live and work we need to understand what the deciding factors are which encourage young people to stay and what might influence their decision to return sooner or indeed come here to live for the first time."

In 2006, research by HIE found thousands of young people moved away from the area once they left school.

Residents who contacted BBC Scotland's news website at the time said lack of further education and job opportunities were among the reasons for leaving.

The following year, it was revealed more women than men had left the Western Isles as its population declined.

Research commissioned by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) also found that fewer women were moving to the islands.

'New dynamism'

The Hebrides Migration Study said 71% of those coming to the area were male.

Forecasting also predicted that there would be more people by 2019 - but fewer schoolchildren, people of working age and women of child-bearing age.

However, on a visit to Inverness in April, the Secretary of State for Scotland, Des Browne, described the Highlands as "one of modern Britain's success stories".

He told a breakfast meeting of Inverness Chamber of Commerce the region and Inverness now boasted a "new dynamism".

Mr Browne said at the time: "From a situation of out-migration and unemployment, the Highlands now boasts a new dynamism.

"A bustling area which many have chosen to make their home in recent years provides evidence of that."

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