Time and again local people of Scotland's Highlands and Islands, impacted by a series of issues surrounding transport, infrastructure and opportunities, have described the region as being in the midst of a 'New Highland Clearances'.

In our new series, led by senior reporter Caroline Wilson, we dive into all of the issues impacting the region and answer the question of what is under threat in our rural communities. 

For more information on the background of the series and why we chose the name New Highland Clearances, click here.

Day One

Reversing Highland crisis requires policy makers to 'move heaven and earth'

The Scottish Highland and Islands are suffering from a major crisis of depopulation, laid bare in a new report by Highland Council. What is happening to cause the decline and what are the solutions?

'I know I'm part of the problem – this is why I left the Highlands'

Senior reporter Caroline Wilson reflects on her upbringing in Lochaber and why she decided to leave the Highlands. A reflective look at why she cares deeply about the issues impacting the area and why leaving remains typical for young people from rural areas.

How following France's lead could help regenerate Highland towns

Kinlochleven's population dropped by 17% from 2003 to 2020, so much so that community activists say only "very strong" government measures and investment will halt its decline. Sarah Arfaoui relocated from Paris to Kinlochleven to run a B&B and has some ideas from her home country to ease the crisis.

Tourism push in 'forgotten' Highland village 'aggressive and unfair'

Looking further into Kinlochleven, the village is seeing an 'aggressive' tourism push where the influx of 100,000 visitors a year seems to do little to improve issues for locals.

'This is a real place – not a postcard': the challenges facing Scotland's Highlands

Civil servant John MacDonald returned to Lochaber six years ago, the area where he grew up. The move for him meant 'writing things off professionally'. Here we get his perspective on the challenges facing the Highlands and what he sees as the solutions.

Driven from the land: how greed ignited Clearances that would change Scotland forever

The Highland Clearances were possibly the most desperate moment in Scottish history. Its effects are still felt within the communities today. How did it happen, and why?

The Herald: The Highland Clearances Memorial at Helmsdale, Sutherland, created by sculptor Gerald Laing

Day Two

Why women are saying no to more children in area facing population decline

Most first-time mothers in Caithness or anyone with a higher-risk pregnancy face a three-hour journey to Inverness. Caroline Wilson speaks to mothers who have dealt with a lack of adequate access to hospitals during pregnancy and the trauma it can cause.

Healthcare and the Highlands: Waiting lists, doctor shortages, and a bullying row

Our health specialist Helen McArdle breaks down how NHS Highland is faring compared to other parts of Scotland and what the biggest worries are for its patients and staff.

Kate Forbes: 'My dream of independence can halt Highland population crisis'

As the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Kate Forbes has thought plenty about the problems facing the population crisis and what the solutions could be. Caroline Wilson picks her brain in an extensive interview.

How a Fort William cinema could show the way forward for Highland communities

For the first time in its 240-year history, The Herald will be produced outside of Glasgow in the Highland Cinema, Fort William. The Highland Cinema has seen great success, showing an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, does it hold a blueprint for the way forward for the region?

Day Three

Impact of clearances 'has never been resolved' in Scotland's most depopulated county

Sutherland is arguably the most depopulated county in Scotland, with the 1851 census showing double the population it has now. How can this impact finally be resolved? Caroline Wilson speaks to historian and author Professor David Worthington.

'Startling' figures show historic Highland county 'in rapid decline'

Digging further into the numbers behind the population decline in Sutherland, Caroline speaks to Professor David Bell, an expert in demographic change, about the figures and what they mean.

'City life has long proved irresistible for young from rural areas'

Historian Sir Tom Devine looks into the historical perspective of migration away from rural counties and why industrialisation held such an allure to young people from the Highlands and Islands.

Why the numbers behind Gaelic media in Scotland add up

John Morrison, chair of ALBA MG, writes on the success of Gaelic media in delivering jobs and serving as a catalyst for change in the area. The only problem is opportunities are dependent on funding, which limits how much the sector can grow.

The Herald: In 2020 just 61 babies were born in Sutherland, which has a population of 13,000

Day Four

'Come and see what we are dealing with': Senior doctor's plea to Michael Matheson

Plans to replace the Belford hospital in Fort William are at an advanced stage but last week the Scottish Government announced it may not be able to sanction the project. Caroline Wilson speaks to Dr. Steve Gilbert who urges the health secretary to come and get a close-up look at what the hospital is dealing with.

'It was unacceptable to lose our Highland school – so we built our own'

Denied upgrades to crumbling schools, communities in the Highlands are funding their own builds. Should more rural areas follow and build their own infrastructure? Caroline Wilson takes a deep dive.

'We haven't a hope of retaining young workers,' says NC500 hotelier

The owner of a long-running hotel on Scotland's popular North Coast 500 route says young people don't see hospitality as a viable career option. How will the hotel located on the world's shortest street cope and make a change?

SNP 'too interested in gimmicks and quick fixes' to halt island decline

Speaking to Orkney MSP Liam McArthur, Caroline Wilson inquires into how governance works on the islands and the problems that arise for islanders as a result.

'I'm proud of my island heritage – but knew I could never stay'

Sarah Campbell, The Herald's Food and Drink writer, left her island home at the age of 17. She knew leaving home would always happen, like many other young islanders. A personal reflection.

Brian Wilson: Depopulation will only be solved by taking action on land

Columnist Brian Wilson breaks down the Scottish Government's Depopulation Action Plan and how it will not effectively tackle the issue of depopulation.

Day Five

Ban croft house owners from short-term let market says MSP

Housing shortages in the Highlands are exacerbated by the short-term let market. MSP Rhoda Grant calls for owners of inherited croft houses to be banned from running the property as a holiday let.

Hebridean isle bucking depopulation trend faces stormy future

The isle of Barra has actually increased its population in recent years, but the issue continues to loom over the future of the island. Caroline Wilson takes a deep dive into the topic.

'If the Dorchester needs an order and the ferry is off that's my problem not theirs'


Spa brand ishga is one of the great business success stories of the Highlands and Islands, but it has a problem – the 'disastrous' ferry links. Caroline Wilson talks to Malcolm Macrae about the trials and tribulations.

Roz Foyer: Highland workers need action, not more rhetoric

General Secretary of the STUC trade union Roz Foyer tackles the issues of labour in the area and what actions can be taken to solve its workforce crisis.

Andy Maciver: Renewables will help rural Scotland to turn the tables

The future is in renewable energy and rural Scotland holds the key. Columnist Andy Maciver dives into how the urban might be relying on the rural shortly, but we need to build the backbone first.