I have laid several amendments in her name to the Planning Bill at the Scottish Parliament. These amendments are designed to ensure that planning legislations looks at repopulation. Many parts of the Highlands and Islands have become depopulated and this trend looks likely to continue. These include amendments to facilitate repopulation and resettlement objectives are taken into account by Ministers. Subsequent amendments require the mapping of ‘no longer inhabited human settlements.
In the past, some of the planning legislation and land use policies have actually had a negative effect on rural parts of the country, often leading to depopulation making it harder for areas to sustain themselves. It is vitally important that this new Bill is amended to ensure they offer solutions towards the profound challenges we face in the Highlands and Islands.
Our rural areas provide huge benefits for Scotland, places the people of Scotland love to visit because it is beautiful. That is to be celebrated and visitors are very welcome. But as well as having countryside and ‘wild’ places for people to visit, we also want people to visit living places, vibrant communities with distinct culture and traditions. We must ensure those communities are protected, to retain and restore population – it is people that are the lifeblood of the Highlands and Islands.
My amendments hopefully go some way to ensure that the new Planning Bill facilitates rural repopulation with sustainable economic and environmental development. Hopefully, we can work towards protecting our rural areas for the future.