Young Islanders latest ministerial engagements

Large group standing in a row facing towards the camera. Some people holding banners. Big table in front of group. Window behind the group. Lots of people smiling in the group.
Large group standing in a row facing towards the camera. Some people holding banners. Big table in front of group. Window behind the group. Lots of people smiling in the group.

It has been a busy start to 2024 for the Young Islanders Network, with three separate opportunities for ministerial engagement to date.

James and Catherine from the Outer Hebrides YLAG with First Minister Humza Yousaf


We kicked off the year with the Scottish Rural and Islands Youth Parliament (SRIYP) visit to Holyrood in January. Thanks to the amazing team at Scottish Rural Action, a representative delegation from the earlier Scottish Rural and Islands Youth Parliament in Fort William last November was able to come together in Edinburgh for the occasion. As the country was hit by snowstorms, many of the participants were delayed or not able to travel but, despite this, a strong contingent managed to attend. We started the trip off with a fantastic evening at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on the Royal Mile. During this evening, we had a session reviewing the asks that had been curated in Fort William and spent some time making last adjustments before they were sent to the Scottish Cabinet for debate in chambers the following morning.


Chiara presenting the Housing Demand for SRIYP to First Minister
SRIYP delegates with Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon

The trip’s main event was the parliamentary debate in chambers led by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands Mairi Gougeon. Prior to the debate, the young delegates were invited to Holyrood and had the opportunity to meet with the Cabinet and First Minister Humza Yousaf. Permanent Secretary JP Marks opened the session by giving a bit of background on his work and the work of the civil service, and highlighted the importance of youth involvement in decision making. This was echoed by the First Minister and Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon in their opening remarks. The young delegates had a chance to ask questions and speak with the First Minister in groups around the asks presented by SRIYP. Naomi joined Housing Minister Paul McLennan and spoke about the YIN Housing Challenge, shared some questions from young islander Kaydence (who was unable to attend due to the weather), and engaged in the discussions around the SRIYP ask. The Housing Minister invited the young delegates to set up a time for further discussion, so on return, a letter was curated and sent to his office to arrange a date to meet.


[From left to right] Milly (Argyle and Bute Resettlement officer), Christina (Uist resettlement officer), Emma Roddick MSP, Daniel, Sapphire, Kaydence and Naomi (YIN)

Rural Housing Scotland Conference 2024 – Aviemore

Young islanders Kaydence and Sapphire travelled to Aviemore to participate in the annual Rural Housing Scotland Conference. They were joined by Youth Scotland staff Naomi and Daniel. The journey was not without its challenges (with Sapphire’s flight from Tiree being cancelled last-minute and having to re-route) but the group made it in time for the evening reception and found a space at the table with the Uist and Argyle and Bute Resettlement Officers, Christina and Milly. This was a great coincidence as we were all working together to deliver the Population Renewal workshop the following day. We were also joined by Cameron Anson, former lead officer for the YIN in the Scottish Government Islands Team in its early days. It was great to speak with him and share aspirations for the network with some of our youth representatives.


Kaydence at the Population Renewal workshop

The following day was jam-packed, opening with a speech from Housing Minister Paul McLennan (though not before Sapphire took an opportunity in the lobby to share the Interim Housing Challenge Report with him). Mr McLennan highlighted the current challenges in addressing the issues around housing in Scotland. This included labour shortages, inflation, construction capacity and achieving targets due to a skill shortage. He shared that he was keen to see a boost to the private sector to develop more homes and economic growth and he also highlighted the important role of community-led housing. There have been 10,000 affordable homes introduced since 2016 and with additional powers and legislation, there is a hope that the market can be better regulated against the short-term lets in high concentration areas, with hopefully up to 9,000 homes returned to use. In addition, supporting repurposing, renovation and retrofitting for empty homes could bring unused properties back to use. Finally, with new powers being introduced to local authorities through the compulsory sales orders, and with support from the national planning policy, potential homeowners may benefit from better and easier access to land in their communities for housing.

The day was filled with inspirational and informative speakers and there were two workshop sessions to participate in. Alongside the Resettlement Officers, the young islanders led the Population Renewal workshop in the morning. We were joined by MSP Emma Roddick and MSP Ariane Burgess. The session was shaped around 3 key topics. Milly opened with an exploration into data, including where we gather data from and how good it is. Then Young Islanders Kaydence and Sapphire joined to lead a discussion on meaningful engagement and ensuring all voices are heard. The session finished with a discussion led by Christina on population retention, recognising that it is also essential to retain the existing population while we work to address growth.


Sapphire speaks at the Population Renewal workshop
Emma Roddick MSP taking questions on the ADAP

The workshop came to a close with a short speech by MSP Emma Roddick on the recently released Addressing Depopulation Action Plan (ADAP), who then took some questions from the room. Breathing a sigh of relief that our workshop was done and had gone well, we moved onto lunch and then went our separate ways to engage in the second round of workshops. At the end of the day, we came together again for the event’s final speeches and presentations, with Daniel on the closing panel.


Never ones to miss out the opportunity for some fun – with our “Excuse me sir, can you take us seriously now?!” ‘tashes on the train back to Glasgow

Following on from the launch of the Addressing Depopulation Action Plan, the Young Islanders Network was asked to provide a quote for the Scottish Government’s news release about engagement with young people in the Plan. Andy, Brynn and Kaydence did a fantastic job putting together the following quote:

The Young Islanders Network and young people in our communities, welcome the valuable opportunity to support and shape delivery of the Addressing Depopulation Action Plan by keeping the focus on what is important to us. It is important for us to share our experiences, local knowledge and needs now and for the future. Such as reliable transport, affordable housing, access to healthcare and sustainable jobs with opportunities for careers.  

For us to be effective in doing this, we need to be involved in our local communities at all levels and using this opportunity to understand the needs of young islanders. Working alongside other young people from across rural communities to learn and share will help to shape this. 

It is important that decisions about our lives are made now as part of a two-way conversation and not on our behalf.  For us to be able to thrive, we need this to happen now, and not later when many of us may have had to leave our islands.”

Andy, Brynn and Kaydence


Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop (Left) with the youth participants at Uist Youth Cafe


On 26 February, Daniel travelled to Uist to support the young people from Uist Youth Cafe as they were joined by Cabinet Secretary for Transport Fiona Hyslop. There will be more on this fantastic day in a blog soon. Keep your eyes peeled! We would like to extend a big thank you to the team at Uist Youth Cafe and all the young people who worked really hard to prepare a presentation for Ms Hyslop and her team. Also a big thank you to Ms Hyslop and her team for reaching out to the Young Islanders to make the time to come along and hear from the young people in Uist.

If you want to have your say why not come along to one of our online meetings or take part in the Housing challenge? You can join the Young Islanders Network by emailing and make sure to Follow us on Facebook