I NOTE with interest Saturday's lead story (“Europe looks to the Highlands to fight its modern Clearances”, The Herald, August 20). I fully agree the sentiment in the autonomous agencies like the Highlands and Islands Development Board/Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIDB/HIE) promote economic development in the Highlands and Islands and help drive population growth. The overall results are very good. However, the overall results mask major gaps in population growth, as well as potentially more important population drivers on the islands. Specifically, autonomous island groups grow faster than those administered by land based local authorities.

Of the 95 inhabited islands, six make up 75 per cent of island population. They are Orkney, Shetland, Harris Lewis, Skye, Bute and Arran. Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles are unitary authorities with control over council spend. Skye has significant autonomy within Highland as well as significant influence within the parliament. Census data for 2001 to 2011 shows that these four “autonomous” islands increased in population as Arran and Bute’s reduced. Arran and Bute are administered as a small part of a larger land-based local authorities, North Ayrshire and Argyll and Bute.

During this 50-year increase in Highland and Island population, the Clyde Islands – Arran, Bute and Cumbrae – have seen a 17 per cent decline in population, mostly driven by a 33 per cent reduction in Bute. Reasons for population decline differ. In Bute and Cumbrae, it is primarily economic. Arran has a booming economy but a chronic lack of affordable housing.

It is reasonable to assume that self-determination, as experienced by the four large island groups, work more effectively with autonomous agencies like HIDB/HIE, increasing the effectiveness of both. In addition, the four big island groups, can work directly with the Scottish Government and other agencies to drive economic development and population growth.

In conclusion, if the SSPA Report is only advocating HIDB/HIE-like organisation to drive economic and population growth it will fail. It must address the need for increased levels of self-determination in the target areas. For the Scottish islands not growing in population, which is all of them apart from the big four, we await increased levels of self-determination through the Islands Bill. The bill must allow us to address our specific island needs, island by island.

Tom Tracey, Brodick, Isle of Arran.

DR Sheila George’s Agenda article ("We need to put land use words into action", The Herald, August 15) is a timely reminder of the “relationship between climate, people and land in a warming world”. She correctly identifies the need to balance competing demands ranging from renewable energy to food production and woodland expansion leading to “climate action through integrated, sustainable land use”.

While not disagreeing with anything she says, I suggest that there is one further aspect of land use which is too readily ignored in our mechanistic, materialistic urban culture.

Scotland’s wild lands are globally recognised as being of singular value by those who understand the need to utilise all the resources available to restore our ecosanity.

It is widely understood that being in the wild contributes to our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. We need to immerse ourselves in nature if we are to understand the deep-seated nature of our relationship with the Earth and its ecosystems: natural systems upon which we depend so much for our survival. Your article today ("Transforming derelict sites can promote growth and wellbeing", The Herald, August 19) and the Agenda contribution by the CEO of the Scottish Land Commission of the same day reinforce that message from a different perspective.

I appreciate the urgency of the need to move from fossil fuels to renewables but I also recognise the imperative to oppose the industrialisation of our wild land by the entirely inappropriate placement of onshore wind turbines which have no place there.

John Milne, Uddingston.