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Highland Information
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The Highland area covers almost 10,000 square miles which represents approximately one third of the Scottish land surface and is larger than the whole of Wales. It is the largest Health Board in geographical terms within the United Kingdom. The population of 211,000 represents 4% of the Scottish total and is settled mainly around the Moray Firth area in the East, Fort William in the West and Wick and Thurso in the North. The Board area may double its population from tourism, particularly during the summer season.

The rural nature of the area is characterised by mountain ranges, lochs, an extensive coastline and sparsely populated areas. This makes delivery of effective and efficient services particularly challenging. It is only in the last 20 to 30 years that a reliable transport infrastructure has been developed in the region (road, rail and air links). The new Inverness airport development and the potential for the addition of international flights with help bring the Highlands closer to the rest of the UK and Europe.

The Highland area is like the rest of Scotland in terms of many aspects of health, lifestyle and disease. In addition, the area presents unique challenges of remoteness for an important proportion of its population. These characteristics bring with them problems of loneliness, reflected in suicide rates which are higher than any other area in the UK, and of road accidents which reflect the long distances driven by many of its population, as well as other social and health related problems.

There is also a growing recognition that indicators of health and social status fail to capture what it means to live in rural and remote rural areas, particularly in regard to deprivation and disadvantage. Despite the rural nature of the area, there are pockets of acute deprivation which are not generally recognised. These are areas where symptoms of health and social disadvantage are most in evidence. This has implications for the allocation of resources to rural areas.

Services are provided through an Acute Hospitals Trust and a Primary Care Trust with Raigmore Hospital recognised as a resource centre.

Despite the challenges of living and providing services in a remote rural area, Highland offers one of the highest qualities of life within the United Kingdom and this is reflected in Inverness being the UKs fastest growing town. Employment opportunities are expanding, although many people still work in part-time and seasonal labour which is reflected in insecure incomes.

 DEMOGRAPHY

The table overleaf details the expected population changes between 1997 and 2006, and also highlighted are the population changes for those aged over 75. 

Summary of Population Projections by Council Area - Expected Changes between 1997 and 2006

Council Area

1997

%

2001

%

2006

%

Change 1997-2006

% Change

Badenoch & Strathspey

11446

5.4

11790

5.5

12186

5.6

740

6.5

Caithness

25837

12.2

25154

11.7

24009

11.0

-1828

-7.1

Inverness

66473

31.5

68739

32.1

71198

32.8

4725

7.1

Lochaber

19478

9.2

19455

9.1

19292

8.9

-186

-1.0

Nairn

10867

5.1

10754

5.0

10528

4.8

-339

-3.1

Ross & Cromarty

51566

24.4

52576

24.5

53507

24.6

1941

3.8

Skye & Lochalsh

12248

5.8

12691

5.9

13293

6.1

1045

8.5

Sutherland

13238

6.3

13263

6.2

13296

6.1

58

0.4

HIGHLAND

211153

100

214422

100

217309

100

6156

2.9

Source: General Register Office (Scotland) 1992-based Population Projections

 

Summary of Population Projections by Council Area for 75+ - Expected Changes between 1997 & 2006

 

Council Area

1997

%

2001

%

2006

%

Change 1997-2006

% Change

Badenoch & Strathspey

781

0.4

920

0.4

1042

0.5

261

33.4

Caithness

1393

0.7

1532

0.7

1740

0.8

347

24.9

Inverness

3290

1.6

3709

1.7

4214

1.9

924

28.1

Lochaber

877

0.4

890

0.4

1072

0.5

195

22.2

Nairn

798

0.4

907

0.4

1002

0.5

204

25.6

Ross & Cromarty

2787

1.3

3137

1.5

3465

1.6

678

24.3

Skye & Lochalsh

784

0.4

796

0.4

804

0.4

20

2.6

Sutherland

955

0.5

1018

0.5

1095

0.5

140

14.7

HIGHLAND

11665

5.5

12909

6.0

14434

6.6

2769

23.7

Source: General Register Office (Scotland) 1992-based Population Projections

 

Expected changes in population between 1997 and 2006 show a relatively small overall increase of 6156 people (2.9%). However, looking at each individual area, Skye and Lochalsh shows the largest increase in population, of 8.5% and Caithness shows the largest decrease in population of -7.1%.

When looking at only those aged over 75, a different profile of change can be seen. The majority of areas show a large increase of between 22.2% (Lochaber) and 33.4% (Badenoch & Strathspey). Quite significantly Skye & Lochalsh only shows an increase of 2.6% in those aged over 75.

These demographic trends will have a substantial impact on services particularly required by older people. This will be reflected in the Health Board and Local Authority joint planning agreements.