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Working for the island we love

February 28, 2022


The housing crisis in Skye and Lochalsh and the impact it is having on the economy is to be the subject of extensive research commissioned by SkyeConnect. The Destination Management Organisation, working in collaboration with the Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association has commissioned specialist Edinburgh-based Consultancy, 56 Degree Insight, to carry out the most detailed survey ever undertaken of businesses in the area.

The survey is in two parts. The first part is looking at quantifying the impact on individual day-today business operations and also the impact on business growth as a direct result of the lack of affordable housing creating employee recruitment and retention issues.

The second part involves a series of in-depth interviews with a range of public and private sector employers to explore the issue in more detail and look at potential solutions including lobbying for changes in Government policy and innovative funding solutions for a range of accommodation types.

SkyeConnect Director and owner of Coruisk House, Clare Winskill, says housing policy should be seen as an economic development issue in rural areas like Skye.

 “For our area to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic and to enable businesses to survive, grow and be resilient, we must find a real solution to the lack of housing available to those looking for employment here and for those already working here who cannot find suitable accommodation. From the smallest businesses  to the largest, and across every sector; our vital tourism sector, but also the public sector; our NHS, our Fire and Rescue Services for example; they all need their employees to have real accommodation available to them; not just short term housing but homes that will encourage people to move to the area to work and contribute to the economy and every other aspect of the vibrant life here in Lochalsh and on Skye and Raasay. Finding a housing solution for my own employees has revolutionised my business. I want to see that replicated across every business in the area where the housing deficit threatens survival and halts growth.”

The project is being supported by Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association. Chief Executive, Neil Clapperton, was heavily involved in framing the focus of the research.

“For remote and island communities like Skye and Lochalsh to thrive they need a strong economy and dependable services, jobs and opportunity.  In particular, commerce and enterprise needs affordable housing and we don’t have nearly enough.  It’s basic infrastructure for every business with ambition and any community with a vision for the future, as critical as roads or broadband.  This survey will give Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association vital data to make the case to the Scottish Government for more investment.  I can’t stress enough how important this is to us or the area we serve. Whether you already live in the area or are coming to Skye and Lochalsh for work, getting a roof over your head is a tough call.  Every part of the housing market faces unique levels of housing pressure, for rent and for sale.  The problem is several times greater than urban and central communities in Scotland, and it hits most households, from the poorest to those on good professional salaries.   Tiny amounts of new affordable housing can transform a community or a business, so a solution is achievable.  But the business community, the public and third sectors all need to assert themselves and make the call.”

The research in Skye and Lochalsh by 56 Degree Insight follows similar surveys in the Cairngorms and Lochaber. 56 Degree Insight Director, Duncan Stewart, says the research commissioned by SkyeConnect is much more than a data collection exercise and aims to generate innovative approaches to tackling the housing issue.

56 Degree Insight work with clients in a range of sectors in relation to many different topics, including B2B studies which aim to better understand the challenges and opportunities faced by businesses in Scotland. This includes regularly taking ‘barometers’ which monitor levels of business optimism, and in-depth studies relating to the specific challenges facing businesses – including recruitment and retention challenges, business housing needs, Brexit and Coronavirus. The team at 56 Degree Insight use a range of approaches to engage with businesses, from large online surveys of hundreds of businesses to one to one in depth interviews and focus groups. Recent B2B clients Cairngorms Business Partnership, Lochaber Chamber of Commerce, Scotland food and Drink and Zero Waste Scotland. This experience provides the team with the background needed to design the newly launched survey of businesses in Skye and Lochalsh and  to bring a wider context and understanding when reporting the results and what they mean.”

The survey is now live and can be accessed through the SkyeConnect website

Businesses will also be contacted by email with details of the survey and selected companies and organisations will be invited to take part in detailed interviews over the next couple of months.

The findings of the research are expected to be published in May.

Simon Cousins


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