Holyrood Committee takes loneliness inquiry to Islay


How a remote community tackles isolation and loneliness will be examined  by Holyrood this May, as the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee continues its age and isolation inquiry by focussing on the experience of people living on the island of Islay.

Since launching its inquiry at the beginning of this year, the Committee has heard views from young and older* people across Scotland, experiencing loneliness, and the organisations working to support them. The Committee’s Islay visit aims to understand the unique challenges that can come with living in a remote island setting. 

Recent studies on living on in remote rural areas have shown that:

  • Scottish rural populations are spread over a very wide geographical area: 95% of Scottish land is considered ‘rural’, with around 1 million of the Scottish population living in rural areas.
  • 89% of the population of the rest of Scotland live within 6 minutes of the nearest bus stop, while 11% of the remote rural population do not have access to a bus service at all.
  • 23% of the rural population are over retirement age compared to 18% in urban areas, and the proportion is expected to rise. The cost of providing social care to older people in rural communities is higher than in urban areas, with many local authorities providing care only to the most needy in rural areas, compared to urban.

Margaret McCulloch MSP, Convener of the Equal Opportunities Committee said:  

“Everyone is welcome to come to Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle, Bowmore on Monday 11th May at 10am and watch the Equal Opportunities Committee as we continue to tackle the very serious issue of social isolation and loneliness.  

“The key questions for the Committee are: what is the impact of loneliness and social isolation on people in remote island areas, is this an escalating problem, and how can it be tackled effectively?”

Ms McCulloch continued: 

“If you are an older or younger person living in Islay and experiencing loneliness, we understand that the effects can be devastating. We know that wherever you live there can be stigma around admitting you are lonely, and sometimes this can be a barrier to seeking out social groups and services that could help.

“But we also know that far more people living in remote rural areas cite ‘friendliness’ as something they really like about their community, compared to urban areas, and more people living in remote rural areas give up their time to volunteer than in the rest of Scotland.  

“Could the Committee learn from people and organisations in Islay on ways to tackle loneliness? Are there innovative projects that help people in Scotland make the kind of social connections that many of us take for granted?  We want to hear about the challenges faced by people living in remote locations.” 

Current research points to social isolation and loneliness and its potentially devastating effect on mental and physical health, particularly in older and younger people. Recent studies have shown that:

  • Loneliness can double the impact of obesity, and extreme loneliness can increase an older person’s chances of premature death by 14%.
  • 59% of adults aged over 52 who report poor health say they feel lonely some of the time or often.
  • Lacking social connections can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Local people living on Islay are invited to watch the Committee at work as it takes forward its inquiry at Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle, Bowmore, Monday 11th May, 10am - 12.30pm. 

Refreshments are provided. 

The Committee is also planning to host informal discussions with local people to hear their views. More details will be available in early May. 


The term ‘young and older people’ is generally defined as those under-25 and over-50 years. 

The Committee will produce a report on its findings on the extent and impact of social isolation on older and younger people living in Scotland, including policy recommendations, in summer 2015.

For more information on the Equal Opportunities Committee, its Islay visit and the Committee’s age and isolation inquiry go to


According to research conducted by Age UK (2014):

  • More than 80,000 people aged 65 and over, living in Scotland, said they always or often felt lonely. Across the UK the figure was more than a million.
  • Around two in five older people (39% or about 350,000) in Scotland say their TV is their main form of company.
  • Around one in six (16%) of those aged 65 and over in Scotland are feeling cut off from society, with a quarter (about 230,000), saying they would like to get out more.

The NSPCC carried out research on loneliness among children who call ChildLine, a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of nineteen. It found:

  • Between April 2008 and March 2009, ChildLine counselled 5,525 children about loneliness, sadness and isolation as their main problem.
  • Furthermore, 4,399 children were counselled about loneliness as an additional problem.
  • Family relationship problems, bullying and physical abuse were the top problems associated with loneliness (as a main or an additional problem). Depression and mental health problems, school problems and bereavement are also associated with loneliness.


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