Issues affecting the North Isles

“…keep the transport links up, that’s the big wan. I wad like tae see the planes reinstated, that wad be a big jump probably no ahead back tae present day as opposed tae bein ahint, maybe.  And the biggy is, just tae throw in at the end, is the causeway atween here and Westray. It’s spoken aboot noo and again and I wad quite like tae see that happenin, I think that wad save the island.”

Hamish Thomson, Eday
(Orkney Library and Archive)
(Orkney Library and Archive)

Throughout the interviews, people talked about a series of issues they feel affect the North Isles today.

Key topics of discussion included the future of transport links, specifically the ferry service, depopulation and how to encourage families to stay and come to the Isles and employment opportunities.​

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic occurred presenting unique challenges for everyone. The interviews highlight the impact the pandemic had on folk’s daily lives across the Isles, the role of the development trusts and community councils in providing support, such as the provision of food parcels and ensuring people had their prescriptions and stayed connected to friends and family.​

“The doctor on the island at the time, aboot a week afore we were locked doon or the real lock doon happened, called us in and said ‘look this is getting serious and we are goin tae hiv tae do something and we made a leaflet right awey and pat oot and everything juist closed doon within the week, so we were closed doon afore the actual lockdoon started. And everybody just took notice right awey and said ‘oh weel that’s whit’s happenin’ so and everyone was keen.”​

Jacqueline Seatter, Sanday
(Orkney Library and Archive)
(Orkney Library and Archive)

​“I always look at the schooling and we are going through a period now with very little folk at the school. There’s ones coming up…but there’s very few at the school. 

School is so important. If you’re going to try and sell a place to some family coming in here, if they’re looking at a house in Papay and have got two children and they’re looking at a house in Westray and a house in Sanday, or some place like that, and they were to come to an island with no school, to me that’s instantaneously ‘oh well I think we can rule that one out’. So, the schooling and education is always a big thing. 

There need to be children or…ones with children living and working in the island. Sometimes places like this can be an elderly population…you’d say it would be getting like that to a degree anyway. Nothing wrong with elderly people because I’m nearly getting to be one of them myself, but you must keep schools going. Definitely an important thing.”

Alistair Hourston, Papa Westray