Holyrood hope for Argyll and Bute population debate

Jamie McGrigor has been a Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands since the Scottish Parliament's first election in 1999.
Jamie McGrigor has been a Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands since the Scottish Parliament's first election in 1999.

Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie McGrigor hopes to secure time to debate Argyll and Bute’s alarming population decline in the Scottish Parliament later this month.

Mr McGrigor tabled a motion at Holyrood following a summit on the subject in Dunoon at the end of October, and says he is confident of securing time in the debating chamber for the topic to be discussed.

Thursday, January 22 has been set aside as a possible date for the debate, though the final decision on when - or indeed whether - the subject will be discussed won’t be taken until closer to the time.

Mr McGrigor has challenged the Scottish Government repeatedly on the issue since the 2011 census showed a decline of 3.4 per cent in the number of people living in the area - and a decline of 10.1 per cent in the population of Bute - since 2001.

“I have emphasised to my party’s business manager that depopulation in Argyll and Bute is a very important subject and one that must be debated in Parliament and I am confident I will secure a debating slot in Parliament, ideally later in January,” he said.

“I am keen that the issue of Argyll and Bute’s projected population decline remains very much on the national and local political agenda as we enter the New Year. A member’s debate will help ensure this is the case and allow myself and other MSPs who represent Argyll and Bute to speak up on the challenges we face and press the Scottish Government.

“If I am able to have this debate there are many issues I want to raise, with transport infrastructure being one of the key ones. I also would hope that along with other MSPs I would be able to highlight some of the fantastic qualities Argyll and Bute has to offer residents, tourists and businesses alike.”

Mr McGrigor’s motion reads as follows:

“That the Parliament notes that, on 29 October 2014, Argyll and Bute’s Community Planning Partnership held an economic summit in Dunoon entitled “Addressing our Population Challenge” to consider the population changes and associated challenges facing Argyll and Bute; is aware of the data published in May 2014 by the National Records of Scotland that predicted that Argyll and Bute’s population will fall by 13.5% by 2037, the second largest projected decline of any local authority in Scotland, with the working age population predicted to fall by almost 22%; shares local concerns about the impact on the local economy and public services of such a steep decline in population, and notes the view that policy makers at all levels should treat as a priority tackling and reversing the projected population decline and looking at new ways of supporting the area and boosting its economic growth, while promoting Argyll and Bute as a diverse, attractive and first-class location for residents, visitors and businesses alike.”

So far the motion has attracted the support of eight Conservative MSPs along with five from the SNP and two from Labour.