The "exceptional' work-life balance in Lochaber will be heavily promoted to help grow the population by 25% over the next 15 years.

A new drive to encourage more people to live and work in the West Highland area, known as the "UK's Outdoor Capital", will focus on the lifestyle benefits and "diverse range of job opportunities".

Enterprise leaders are aiming to boost the 20,000 population by a quarter by 2040.

The Herald: The Herald's series 'The New Highland Clearances' begins on Monday January 29 2024

A report by Highland Council published in December following last year's census paints a worrying picture, showing that areas including Caithness, Sutherland and West Lochaber are being ‘drained of people’.

The Herald's New Highland Clearances series last month examined the challenges that are holding back population growth.

The Herald: Kinlochleven has been singled out as an 'at risk' areaKinlochleven has been singled out as an 'at risk' area (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

Our six-day series included exclusive interviews with politicians and policymakers and leading voices on demographic change taking in transport, housing, health, connectivity and education, all key to population resilience. 

The Lochaber campaign will promote the University of the Highlands and Islands as the college and university of choice in areas including adventure tourism, maritime and aquaculture, creative industries and Gaelic. 

UHI is also aiming to offer more qualifications up to postgraduate level in a range of other, more traditional subjects including construction, hairdressing, professional cookery and business.

'Lochaber has everything you need'

The campaign is being led by  Lochaber Chamber of Commerce and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), working with businesses, communities, and public sector partners. 


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Frazer Coupland, CEO at Lochaber Chamber of Commerce, said: “Our aim is to see a 25% population increase by 2040.

"We believe that relocating to Lochaber offers an exceptional work-life balance.

“There are a diverse range of career opportunities across the region with SSE, Mowi, BSW, Alvance, and NHS Highland alongside unrivalled outdoor amenities including Nevis Range.   

New census data shows Kinlochleven's population dropped by 17% between 2003 and 2020, from around 1000 people to 760. The high school has capacity for 288 pupils but its current roll is less than half that figure.

Like other areas that have suffered the loss of heavy industry, locals say the closure of the British Alcan aluminium smelter in June 2000 after 90 years "was the beginning of the rot for the village" with many forced to leave to find other jobs.

Graham Smith is a project engineer for the Alvance aluminium smelter in Fort William, one of only two in the UK.

On his decision to relocate to Lochaber he said: “We used to spend a lot of our weekends travelling to the hills and the mountains, so it made sense to move to the outdoor capital of the UK.

"It has massively improved our work-life balance.  

Having a young family and getting to bring them up in this environment with a huge amount of like-minded people is just brilliant."

The Herald:

A masterplan is being taken forward for Fort William focussed on tourism and leisure facilities, a school, road improvements, housing and town centre revitalisation.

Alastair Nicolson, HIE’s area manager for Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross, said: “This campaign will showcase the countless opportunities across this amazing region, whether you’re starting a career, raising a family, or just looking for a change.  

The Herald:  

“Our aim is for more people to recognise and appreciate what Lochaber can offer them and encourage growth across the region benefiting communities, businesses and organisations. 

“We hope to see people from all over the UK engage with the campaign and get in touch to find out more about Lochaber and what their lives could look like here.”