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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Migrants stop population decline
Police officers
Population change will impact on police and other public services
A falling population in the Highlands has been halted by growing numbers of migrant workers moving to the region.

The phenomenon was discussed at a summit held in Inverness on Tuesday, organised by the Wellbeing Alliance.

The meeting also heard how the rise in people arriving from within the UK and abroad has brought potential problems in housing and education.

Minister for Public Service Reform Tom McCabe and Gary Coutts, of NHS Highland, were among the speakers.

The population in the Highlands increased by 2,250 in the year to June 2005 to 213,500.

Deaths still outnumber births, but there has been a significant increase in people moving to the region from elsewhere in the country and from abroad.

Different languages

The summit heard that most of the migrants have settled in the Inverness area and most non-UK migrants were aged 18 to 34.

However, policy-makers voiced concerns at the loss of young people, with many leaving home in the search for work or to study at university.

The influx of people to the Highlands from other parts of the UK and from abroad has raised new challenges for the local authority.

There is a variety of about 60 different languages among 600 new pupils.

Highland Council's head of policy, Carron McDiarmid, said it faces a huge task in providing enough housing and targeting education and social services to meet the needs of the changing population.

Mr McCabe was a keynote speaker at the Population Summit in Highland Council's headquarters.

Other speakers included Willie Roe, chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and Linda Cowie, head teacher at Crown Primary School in Inverness where for one in 10 pupils English is their second language.

The Wellbeing Association includes Highland Council, police and health services and representatives from the private sector.

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