This is just the start of many more much-needed conversations – but one I am very proud of The Herald for leading.

We have spent all week focusing on the factors behind the depopulation of The Highlands and Islands, expressing the very real fears of communities, business, health professionals, educators and hospitality about what the future could hold for their areas. Some of it feels very bleak indeed.

My team, led by reporter Caroline Wilson, has spent many weeks getting to grips with the biggest issues at play by meeting with those people who live and work there. The result? A comprehensive body of work spread across five days which we, with great thought, called The New Highland Clearances.

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Editor's PickCatherine Salmond: The Herald heads to The Highlands

The series has told their stories and expressed their fears and frustrations, but it has also celebrated and offered solutions. Most crucially, it has got people talking, including our decision makers in Holyrood who must now be put under more pressure to provide answers and offer reassurance to the people of the Highlands and Islands that issues of real concern – such as transport, infrastructure, education and health – hold no Central Belt bias.

This is why I say this is just the start. Today, our series draws to a close, but our commitment to covering the Highlands and Islands does not. We are dedicated to being a voice for its communities and to steering the conversations that need to happen.

Our commitment was shown this week when my team and I made the historic decision to edit and produce The Herald outwith Glasgow for the first time in the title’s 240-year history. Along with our deputy editor, Garry Scott, we headed to Fort William and based ourselves at the Highland Cinema where we were overwhelmed by the number of people who came to talk to us – to tell us their stories and ask us to share them.

The Herald: The Herald team in Fort William
And we have, including that of Dr Steve Gilbert, who arrived after his shift at the town’s Belford Hospital where he is the clinical lead. He spoke of the strains on the Belford – Scotland’s busiest rural general – and urged the Health Secretary Michael Matheson to visit the crumbling and ‘functionally unsuitable’ facility as question marks hang over the funding of a replacement building. Last week, the Scottish Government announced it may not be able to sanction the funds needed to pay for the £160 million project.

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‘This is a real place, not a postcard’ was our headline on Monday when we launched the series with a striking front page which has understandably attracted a lot of attention. The words were said to us by John MacDonald, a 51-year-old academic who has returned to live in Lochaber, where he was raised. They epitomise the sentiment of the work we have done this week – and our commitment to pushing for change.

Read all the stories in our series here.

Catherine Salmond