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If you have ever been to Gheiraha beach, a few miles north of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, you might have seen Susan Rabe and her seven-year-old son Haran playing on the white sands, leaning and laughing into the westerlies. This is their favourite place on the island. Beyond the white spume of the breakers you can often see porpoises and whales in the clear blue water.
Behind you are mossy banks and dramatic cliffs, pristine in their isolation.
Above the beach, the single-track road peters out over a folly of a crossing called the Bridge to Nowhere. It's a terrible feeling to have to leave your home against your will, but there are lots of us in the same situation. None of that is news; small communities everywhere - island or landlocked - endure similar difficulties. What is happening on the Outer Hebrides, however, is different. A year-long study of migration to and from the islands has shocked the fiercely proud residents.
On Lewis, people had believed their community and its Gaelic-speaking culture was recovering after years of decline; in recent years, s had been increasing. But what the study found was that most of the newcomers, the ones who had swollen the population, were mature in years while the people leaving were young.
In particular, researchers discovered that twice as many young women than men are leaving the Hebrides, so that by there will be too few of child-bearing age to sustain the population. If nothing is done, the communities of Lewis and the other islands in the group could shrivel and die. Stornoway, the main population centre, is on Lewis, two hours and 40 minutes by ferry from Ullapool, or a one-hour plane ride from Glasgow. Inthe population of the islands was 46, The latest estimates from the General Register Office for Scotland, from Juneput s at 26, - fewer than inbut more than in This apparent upturn had looked hopeful until the Outer Hebrides Migration Study, commissioned by the local authority and enterprise agencies, found that the figures were masking a very different reality.
Researchers from the Glasgow-based regeneration consultancy Hall Aitken predicted a decline in the of women of child-bearing age from 4, in to 3, bya fall in the s of primary school-aged children from 2, to 1, a secondary-school population drop from 2, to 1, and an increase in the average age of the population from The findings were treated lightly in some sections of the media. The Sun sent up two -three girls to show the men of the islands just what they would be missing.
Politicians admitted they had been caught unawares, but there was less surprise among women. It's just that there weren't opportunities for them to come back to. For a time, Rabe, 40, was lucky. Like many women on the islands, she had left to experience life away from the solitude, fully intending to return.
She set up a Woman need sex in Isle of Harris business in Egypt after marrying an Egyptian. Like more than one-third of the working population, she landed a public-sector job - hers funded with EU money, to establish walks and pathways as part of a countryside Woman need sex in Isle of Harris scheme.
It was a three-year contract, and when it ends in a few months it is unlikely she will find any other work to suit her skills. He doesn't want to leave them. But if I want to support us, I'll have to work elsewhere, and that will break my heart.
The mainland is full of people who want to come home, and the reality is they simply can't. And that sometimes involves uprooting entire families. Ten years ago, the college had full-time students; now it is down to Her partner, Alexander Peck, works as a lecturer at the college and they have two sons. The only problem is that there are very few opportunities here for women, and women are more ambitious than they used to be.
It seems pointless to earn a qualification if you can't use it. But the only major employer of women here is the council and they insist on employing people with experience. How do you get experience if the only major employer won't give you a chance? Very reluctantly, we've accepted that if I can't find satisfying and well-paid work here, we will have to move to the mainland.
The public sector plays a huge part in island life. According to official figures, of the working population of 9, 4, are employed in Woman need sex in Isle of Harris administration, health, education, "other public services" and "other services". Only make a full-time living from agriculture or crofting and around from fishing and sea farming, though several factories have closed because of the cost of transporting fish to the mainland.
The other main sources of jobs come from construction, distribution, transport and production of textiles, mainly Harris tweed. Seeing the of the migration study, one member of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Western Isles council, mooted paying a bounty to women for each child they bore. That spawned rumours that women would be paid cash to stay on or move to the islands.
Neither is true, although at some point financial incentives in the form of grants for women to relocate from the mainland or set up new businesses might be considered. The council, in conjunction with partners in the private sector, education and enterprise agencies, is setting up a working group to search for ways of saving the community. On paper, it doesn't look too difficult. At the same time, the s of to year-olds leaving the islands should be reduced by around a third. This would mean trying to retain 40 females and 20 males from this age group who currently leave the islands each year.
Angus Campbell, vice-convenor of the islands council, believes that renewable energy could provide opportunities, and his council has just approved the siting of wind turbines on Lewis. Financial incentives for young people and families, better childcare, cheaper housing and encouragement for entrepreneurs will all have to be considered, he adds. But none of that is sustainable without an economic base. The economy is so fragile. If a fish farm and factory closes down, then the factory that produces the polystyrene boxes to pack the fish closes.
The haulier who transports the fish is affected, and the ferry service that transported the fish becomes less viable. Everything here is linked. Across the islands, the aspirations of young people, women in particular, are stifled by other factors too. Land used to be locked up in crofts handed down from one generation to the next and owned by a handful of landowners on the mainland.
Over on the western side of Lewis is Uig, a tiny community of fewer than people, with a peerless sense of togetherness, which is struggling to survive. Among the residents are incomers who have decided to make the island their home. Two of them are Gillian Dykes, 30, and her partner, Richard Davies, They have been on the island for more than eight years and wouldn't live anywhere else.
After years of trying to find land to build on, they are finishing construction of a new home overlooking the bay of Uig and the mountains bordering Harris, and they are expecting their first baby in May. You can leave your doors open and children can play safely and enjoy the countryside and the sea.
There are problems with schools and jobs and childcare, and they are the things that I believe could attract young families here if they can be improved. Woman need sex in Isle of Harris wants the island communities to survive and I believe they will.
If you look at the rolls of the 40 primary schools dotted across the Western Isles, you often see years with no children in them. Others have one, two or three, while the largest in the more built-up areas can have up to a healthy There will be five babies born in Uig between May and August this year, says Dykes, "and we're all very excited about that. We asked the local midwife, Todag Mackenzie, when was the last time there were five children in the same Woman need sex in Isle of Harris, and she found it was Where are all the women?
For all their rugged beauty, the Western Isles face an agonising future - unless islanders can somehow reverse the exodus of women of child-bearing age. Steve Boggan reports. Steve Boggan. Topics Communities United Kingdom holidays. Reuse this content.Woman need sex in Isle of Harris
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