Supporting peripheral regions

Earlier this year I visited Orkney, to be briefed on a significant project that Robert Gordon University is undertaking there, in partnership with other institutions. I was struck by the very unusual nature of the topography, its rich history and the creative approach of the people. I will certainly want to visit the islands again.

As some may know, Orkney was not always part of Scotland. Until 1266 it was a Norse settlement; as was the adjacent Northern corner of Caithness. Now, this past weekend, I visited this area for the first time. The landscape immediately reminded me of Orkney, as did the very unusual thin stones (described as ‘flagstones’) that you see everywhere in walls and buildings:

But unlike Orkney, Caithness feels much poorer and, perhaps, a little neglected. Its most significant employer was probably, until a few years ago, the Dounreay nuclear power plant, which ceased operating a while ago and is being decommissioned. The North Coast 500 tourist rose offers significant potential, but more will need to be done to create facilities along the Caithness coast. I really liked Caithness, and was wholly enthused by its coastline, its topography, and its people.

But what exactly do we want our peripheral regions to be? Do we want them to be thriving, regenerating, renewing? Do we want them to have sufficient attractions to keep young people there, or persuade them to return? This is not an issue for Caithness alone, or indeed Scotland, but it is a vital one as we chart the future for diverse and balanced communities. Orkney is going fast in the right direction. I hope Caithness is also given that opportunity.

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One Comment on “Supporting peripheral regions”

  1. Vince Says:

    My problem is that solutions to this problem have been tried since they found sources of potash in mines sometime around 1820. This was why the Highland, and Irish estates like the Whites and Landownes in Kerry and the Browne’s in Sligo managed to stay in the manner they did on the coasts where in general their estates produced little of economic value.
    This issue continued, it’s why we have Harris and Donegall Tweet and then the Prince of Wales (the one before this one, him of Mrs Simpson) opened up Fair Isle.
    Now we are pushing tourism. But at the same time we are going on about climate change.


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