Up to 1,700 jobs go unfilled on Scottish island as workers can't find homes

Up to 1,700 jobs are currently unfilled on Skye due to workers being unable to secure affordable accommodation, new research has found.

More than two in five firms on the island have reported difficulties in hiring employees with 89 per cent of businesses who have five or more staff now struggling to recruit.

Around a third of employers have had job offers turned down, with lack of accommodation reported as a factor in half of these cases.

Hospitality on the island has been particularly hit by the island’s housing crisis, with chefs and housekeepers among the posts hardest to fill. Transport and health jobs have also been impacted, with roles with salaries or £30,000 or less most likely to remain vacant.

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The report found that housing shortages are having a direct impact on the local economy with many businesses forced to reduce services or choosing to not to further invest.

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Clare Winskill, director of SkyeConnect, a business-led economic development organisation which co-commissioned the report, called for “rapid” building of affordable housing on the island.

She said: “Pre-pandemic the Skye and Lochalsh economy was buoyant attracting visitors, both domestic and international, whose experience of our beautiful area was positive and who wished to return.

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Portree on the Isle of Skye. The island is facing both a recruitment crisis and a housing crisis, with firms struggling to hire staff given the lack of affordable accommodation on the island. PIC: Markus Bernet/Creative Commons.

"Post pandemic new and existing businesses, are now really struggling to service demand in the tourism sector - even though that demand has not as yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.

"This area has the potential for growth and the creation of entrepreneurs. It offers a lifestyle that many urbanites are leaving cities and towns to enjoy. That is an opportunity. But with 1,300 to 1,700 vacancies across all sectors difficult to fill now, at this moment; that opportunity will be missed.”

The rise in second home ownership on Skye and a lack of long-term rentals are limiting opportunities for people to live and work on the island.

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Separate research last year found that almost 19 per cent of properties on Skye are listed on Airbnb.

She added: “In real terms we are looking at a significant contraction of our economy here – now, if the rapid building of affordable housing, that will allow recruitment and retention of a workforce, does not take place.”

The impact of Brexit, a general skills shortage and a lack of local people available to fill positions were also factors in the recruitment crisis.

Neil Clapperton, Chief Executive of Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association, said the report made a compelling case for

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urgent investment in affordable housing.

The Scottish Government is making up to £30m available through its Rural and Islands Housing Fund (RIHF) to increase affordable housing.

Councillor Glynis Sinclair, Chair of Highland Council’s Housing and Property Committee, said the local authority recognised the housing pressures on Skye and was working closely with the Scottish Government and others to deliver more homes.

Councillor Sinclair said: “With our partners we have delivered 370 new affordable homes in Skye over the last 10 years and currently have 130 homes approved and under construction with a further 200 homes planned throughout the Island.”

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She added there were “significant constraints” to delivering new homes in Skye, including rampant construction cost inflation and a lack of economically deliverable sites, private developers and contractors.

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