The rise of the singleton household is a dramatic and significant social change.

The proportion of people living alone in Scotland is expected to grow to 41 per cent of all households in the next 25 years. In parts of the country, notably Glasgow, such households will become the outright majority with more than 50 per cent of homes headed by a single person.

But we are not becoming a ‘Bridget Jones’ nation. This phenomenon is being driven by a growth in the older population, with the number of households headed by a single person aged over 70 set to rise by 58 per cent.

This process is already underway, and it would be wrong to see this rise in ‘singleton’ households as necessarily problematic. Some people – young and old – are choosing to live alone, to preserve financial and physical independence, or to retain their own homes.

But the social challenge these changes represent is nevertheless significant. Social isolation and loneliness are now regarded as one of the most, if not the most pressing public health challenges facing Scotland.

The fragmentation of families, with more people in full time work and increasing geographical separation, means fewer adults are able to look after elderly relatives. This trend is unlikely to be reversed.

We will need more and better social care. The aberration of 15 minute care visits – too brief for the barest social interaction – must end.

We will also need more housing. Age Scotland says most people want to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. So we need more of them, better suited to people’s needs and we need help for people to adapt their homes to allow them to remain living independently.

These are also the demographics behind Scotland’s need for an open and welcoming immigration policy. Former communities secretary Angela Constance MSP says migrants are key to growing Scotland’s economy and allowing us to compete. They will also have a key role in paying the taxes needed to support an ageing population.

Many innovative ideas about how Scotland can tackle issues of loneliness and isolation have been explored in these pages, including that advanced by the Liberal Democrats: a homeshare scheme where an older person with unused space can offer a younger lodger accommodation in return for company and support for a set number of hours a week.

Other solutions will simply require more public spending. It is becoming clearer that investment in social care on a scale comparable with that of the NHS will be necessary to meet people’s needs. Given that this will inevitably involve us all paying more tax, politicians need to have frank and honest discussion with the electorate about how we face up to the challenges of this new reality.