2,568

of 5,000 signatures

To Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Candidates, Highlands and Islands MSP List Candidates, the SNP, the Scottish Government.

Petition text

THE BACKGROUND:

Skye is in danger. Rising house prices and a lack of sustainable work make it almost impossible for young people to stay in the communities they call home.

Whether our families have lived here for generations or we have been lucky enough to have become new Sgitheanachs, most of us are priced out of the villages we grew up in.

Previously affordable properties are now sold at thousands of pounds above their asking price, too often to buyers who have no intention of living on or at times even visiting Skye. Profiteering investors are ransacking our island. Owners of multiple holiday lets - ripped from the available housing stock - are putting their personal wealth over our fragile island communities and culture.

10 percent of island homes are now second homes, compared to only 1 percent across Scotland. The average house price on Skye has been forced up to £291k. This pricing level is not sustainable if we are serious about maintaining and protecting the Island's local and young population.

The effect of the current housing market trend is devastating. When looking out over the villages of Staffin or Waternish, half of the lights are out. Former family homes lie dormant for half the year in anticipation of high paying travellers looking to experience Skye in 3 days or less.

Our once vibrant, vigorous villages are now emptying.

We have reached an existential crisis - the tipping point. Bold action must be taken, or Skye (and the rest of the Highlands & Islands) will never be the same.

We risk becoming an island remembered only through postcards and childhood memories shared by emigrants far from home. We risk becoming a playground for the wealthy, searching for an ever diminishing 'authentic' island experience.

If we carry on the way we are going, there will be no place left for locals and young people. What then? Who will maintain, innovate, and share our culture? Who will pass on our language to the next generation? What is Skye without our culture? Without our traditional music? Without Gaelic?

It is now becoming increasingly apparent that - much like our ancestors - we are victims of a modern-day economic clearance. The parallels are clear. As was the case over 100 years ago, priority is given to financial wealth over cultural health.

We are the casualties of a perfect storm. A Catch-22. House prices are exorbitant, and sustainable work opportunities are limited. Those who are fortunate enough to find work or start businesses can't physically stay. Even those with high paying jobs in the new work-from-home culture can't afford to buy or rent, as short term 'Airbnb' style lets now dominate the accommodation market.


OUR CALL:

With an election looming, we want tangible commitments and genuine accountability. We want assurances that we are not going to be left to rot in the margins for the economic gain of others. We want to build lives here and contribute to our island's future - but we need protection and support.

The following is an overview of where we would like to see bold action;

Jobs:

We need action to bring sustainable work to the islands. If Covid-19 has proved anything, it's that we can work from anywhere. Centralisation, whether in the central belt or Inverness, is destroying opportunities in rural Scotland. Rural work must be centred in rural Scotland. While the development of 4 Crofting Commission jobs in the Western Isles is welcomed, bodies such as this should be permanently based outside Inverness.

A push for sustainable work could include incentives for corporate companies, relocation of government bodies, or new business grants. Sustainable industries must be established on Skye to support communities and provide stable incomes. Furthermore, we should not be forced to leave our island to seek career opportunities, especially within the Gaelic language.

Housing:

Overhaul the housing register allocation scheme to ensure locals have priority when being allocated housing for rent in their local area.

Affordable housing must be a priority - not just Government funding being made available but a real push for development. Projects should be located throughout our island communities, not just centred around central villages like Portree or Broadford.

We need a clampdown on second (third and fourth!) property ownerships for short-term lets. Multiple short-term let ownership is a key driver in killing our local communities, contributing to Gaelic's decline and degrading island opportunities and culture. It is mercenary behaviour that stands in complete opposition to local society and young people.

It should be extremely difficult to change the use of any established housing into short term let accommodation. We already have difficulty managing over-tourism issues; additional tourist accommodation will not improve this situation.

Change:

The Highland Council requires reform. The needs and demands of Inverness and the rural communities are too diverse and should be separated. Inverness swallows up funds allocated to the Highlands, and the trickle-down is meagre. We are an island. Our rural communities have unique issues which require unique solutions.

More must be done to engage young people and listen to their concerns. Young people of the Highlands and Islands face issues unseen in previous generations, which need to be more actively considered.

Conclusion:

These are only a few key issues which need to be addressed urgently. We recognise that this is an incredibly complex problem facing not only Skye, but the wider Highlands and Islands region, but make no mistake: history will not reflect well on the government who did not address these problems seriously and let our community, and our culture, die.

In the name of capital
Establishment
Improvers, it’s a name
The hidden truths
The hidden lies
That once nailed you
To the pain

Iomairt an Eilein.

Sign the open letter

Signers list

Yvonne White
Leòdhas Iain Massie
Karis Beattie
Lee Strain
Ariane Burgess
Nicole Healing
Jane Daughtrey
Thomas Skinner
Luke Smith
Kirsty Macleod
Anna Kaye
Lawrence Byrne
Jayne Macdonald
Leann
Chloe Colquhoun
Sonja Didier
Naomi Mcminn
Jane Churchill
Alison Rose Smith
Emma Barrett
Erin Maguire
Joy Mann
Gary Brown
Mairi Chalmers
Rebecca Scott
Hannah Frodsham
Erica Hollis
Laura Jack
Amy Stirling
Zoe Prentice
Lorna
Laura Arman
Abby Fraser-Davidson
Chiara Maclean
Rona Mackinnon
Brenda Wilson
Fiona Ross
Wendy Malloy
Andy Mac
Ryan Catterson
Hannah Brown
Katie Gillies
Andre Ferreira
Martyna Blaszczyk
Susan Black
Declan Tait
Emma Strachan
Aimee Williamson
Arthur Cormack
Alana Stewart

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