However, such laser-like focus on the modern can sometimes obscure the value to be found in older, more traditional ways; sometimes going ‘back to the future’ can be worthwhile, and not just in a financial sense.
The Inner Hebridean island of Luing, which lies to the south west of Oban, was once at the heart of Scotland’s slate industry. As one of the “islands that roofed the world”, it was home to some 15 quarries.
Perhaps inevitably, the rise of cheaper alternatives saw the last slate produced there in the 1960s. But, amid growing demand for Scottish slate to restore older properties, moves are afoot to recreate what was lost.
The Isle of Luing Community Trust is currently working with Historic Environment Scotland on a scheme to open up a new bed of slate and start production by winter 2024, if planning permission is approved.
This would be a renewed source of income for the island but the waste material from the process of making slates could also be used to help shore up its coastal defences against the growing problem of erosion as sea levels rise and storms increase, threatening the village of Cullipool.
The 60-year gap in production on the island may be a testimony to slate’s enduring qualities as a building material. And while the industry may seem old-fashioned, the idea of using long-lasting, natural materials – rather than short-lived, artificial ones – is one we are finally beginning to appreciate.