Covid-19 Effect Is Pricing Out Locals From Scotland’s Rugged Western Isles

Few places are farther from the beaten track than the wind-lashed Outer Hebrides off Scotland’s northwest coast. But they are also now the prize in a tug of war over who should be able to live there.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, a surge of buyers have bought up many of the available houses, far from Covid-19 hot spots on the British mainland such as Glasgow or London. Many homes overlook sites such as Luskentyre Beach or the prehistoric standing stones at Callanish.

Local leaders say new arrivals could be a lifeline for the fragile communities that have long struggled to reverse declining populations.

But younger islanders worry the influx is pricing them out of the market—and, ultimately, the places where they grew up and their families still live.

“Lockdown has become a double-edged sword,” says Pàdruig Morrison, a 24-year-old musician and researcher from the island of South Uist who has begun campaigning for more housing opportunities for younger islanders. “People are being left with few other options but to leave at a time when it is becoming more widely accepted to stay and work online from home.”

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