YOUNG folk living in one of Sutherland’s more remote areas have busted any myth of rural idyll.
Residents under the age of 25 in Assynt have hit out over the isolation and lack of facilities they face, saying there were more disadvantages than advantages to living in the area.
They are also aggrieved at not being involved in decision making in their communities.
The disgruntled youngsters put their feelings on paper, with Assynt Youth Voice producing a leaflet listing the pros and cons of living in small north west communities.
The youngsters from Lochinver, Stoer and Drumbeg cited just five good aspects of living in the north west but list more than four times as many reasons not to live there.
They like the area for its low crime rate and good seasonal jobs. But chief among the gripes are not enough permanent jobs, training, shops, transport or activities as well as poor broadband and phone signal.
The youngsters made their feelings known at the Sutherland Youth Forum winter conference in Lairg where they called for a greater say in the decision-making of their communities.
Their dissatisfaction touched a chord with East Sutherland and Edderton ward councillor Deirdre Mackay who was at the conference as vice-chairman of the Sutherland Community Partnership (SCP).
Cllr Mackay said: “I was particularly touched by the young people from Assynt who told me about the challenges they face in their community.
“Their depth of feeling was such that they produced a leaflet flagging up their concerns, which they distributed at the conference. The youngsters identified 23 negatives and of these 23, most relate to the challenges of living in a remote and rural area.
“I was particularly struck with what they had to say about housing. If they want to stay in the community after leaving school and are lucky enough to get a job, there simply is no housing available to rent.
“When it comes to consultations and decisions that influence their home communities, they wish to have the same opportunity to have their voices heard as young people across the rest of Sutherland.”
Cllr Mackay raised the issues at a meeting of the SCP, which took place a few days after the youth conference.
She said: “It was opportune because as well as our regular partners around the table, we also had in attendance Highland Council chief executive Steve Barron and Melanie Newdick, vice chairman of NHS Highland.
“After hearing their story, it was agreed that we would invite the Assynt youngsters along to the partnership to talk about the challenges they face and what might be done to improve things.
“This is also the Year of Young People so it is all the more important our youngsters have a real voice and the opportunity to participate in the democratic process.”
The good bits:
* Feel safe
* Low crime
* Good mobile signal in some areas
* Good seasonal jobs
* Missing school if weather is bad
The bad bits:
* Long days with very early bus to get to school and not home until 5pm – hard when have homework to do as well.
* School buses are either very cold or far too hot
* Need to take a day off school for appointments
* Not enough activities for young people
* Lack of transport to Lochinver from Stoer/Drumbeg
* Food shopping is expensive
* No swimming pool
* Only seasonal jobs
* Little variety in jobs
* Lack of job opportunities
* Bus to Inverness is expensive and you can’t get back to Lochinver on the same day
* Lack of training opportunities
* Missing school and friends if weather bad and bus can’t make it
* Have to organise staying at friends if want to do something after school
* Need to leave area for work
* No shops
* No civilisation
* Hard to stay in area as no houses to rent
* Hard to meet with friends outside school because of transport
* No fire engine in Lochinver
* No phone signal
* No doctor every day
* Broadband only ok in some areas