Island depopulation: Has Orkney bucked the trend?

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It is a beautiful place and incomers and visitors alike are drawn to the archipelago’s renowned and unique nature – which includes stunning coastlines, wildlife havens and archaeological wonders – as well as its strong sense of community. Orkney’s magnetism is also reflected in demographic data.
Between 2001 and 2020, Orkney’s population, as a whole, grew at a faster rate than any other “data zone” – individual islands, island areas or island groupings – according to the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe).But as is so often the case with statistics, the true picture is more complex and nuanced. While there’s a positive story for Orkney to tell of surging against the tide of depopulation, it is not the case for every isle in this archipelago.
National Records of Scotland data shows that, from 2010 to 2021, many of Orkney’s outer islands – grouped together as single data zones – actually saw their collective population decline.


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