Election 2021: Conservative candidates for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross say how he would deal with depopulation and housing shortages in part three of our pre-election series
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Having already heard from the Scottish Libertarian Party and Labour, today it is the turn of Scottish Conservative candidate Struan Mackie who says the far north is an outlier when it comes to depopulation and housing as the homes are available they just need to be made habitable.
With the north facing some of the worst population declines anywhere in the country, Mr Mackie says the need for action but currently the legislation is not in place to do what is needed.
With Caithness, Sutherland and Ross being one of the largest constituencies in Europe it ranges over an enormously diverse area from the industrialised Cromarty Firth to smaller villages up the east coast and the massive expanse of Sutherland.
Mr Mackie said: “Given the Highland Councils demographic projections showing startling depopulation estimates for almost every corner of the constituency, rural housing must be a core priority for the next Scottish Government.
“Although it is clear that the SNP's moves to scrap the Help to Buy Scheme and closing their flagship First Home Fund within days of opening will only exacerbate this already significant problem, it must be acknowledged that blanket policies are seldom the answer.
“What may work for Lochinver may not work in Livingston, a solution for Alness might be inappropriate for Aberdeen.
“Highland, possibly more than any other region, desperately needs regional policy with more levers of powers devolved to local government and wrestled away from Holyrood and central-belt ‘experts’.
“Caithness, one of the few areas in Scotland where there is a surplus of housing, needs capital support to convert unsuitable properties into attractive homes for young families – a local solution to a local problem. That is very different to other areas where homes are out of reach or simply don’t exist.
“There are a number pragmatic steps that could be taken immediately; with the creation of more fit-homes being both transformational for residents, as well as freeing up valuable housing stock.
“Revitalising our high streets by cutting red tape to turn unwanted retail space into residential accommodation is also a sensible step that will undoubtedly help.
“But jobs, industry and housing need to be considered collectively and not in isolation. It is clear that we are more disjointed than ever - although we previously did it well.
“Housing for oil and fabrication workers in Wester Ross and the Cromarty Firth provided new homes to support North Sea expansion.
“In Caithness and North Sutherland large estates were drawn up to support the establishment of Dounreay. Jobs and homes, one supports the other.
“What use is creating a plethora of job opportunities for our people, if nobody can secure affordable and secure housing? It is time to stop working in isolation and make every arm of government tackle housing together.”