Mirroring many other rural communities around the UK, Islanders in the Hebrides and Skye are becoming fearful of being priced out of their local housing market. Community leaders have written an open letter describing their concerns over economic clearances, which they say threatens the sustainability of the islands. The letter’s signatories include business people, development officers, crofters and Gaelic campaigners.
It is estimated that 40% of housing stock on the Inner Hebridean island of Tiree and the Western Isle of West Harris were being used as holiday homes. Covid-19 is now being blamed for homes on the Scottish Isles becoming popular with people from elsewhere in the UK who are seeking a ‘better life’ while being able to work from home.
The signatories use of the words economic clearance hark from the 18th and 19th century clearance evictions by landlords of tenants from the Highlands, so they could increase their wealth.
Islanders hope that properties for sale or to rent can be advertised locally in the first instance, before being offered to a wider market, and have called for Uist in the Western Isles to be used as a trial location.
However, house prices on the islands are at the top end of average house prices in Scotland. Half of residential homes are being bought with cash but enquiries aren’t just coming in from around the UK – estate agents say that ‘exceptional interest’ is being shown from buyers in Hong Kong.
With concerns that the Gaelic language could vanish within ten years if younger residents cannot afford to live there, more may be required than housing availability to keep locals in the area.