• MySTV

Economic crisis facing the Western Isles after jobs blow

Loss of 59 roles in Stornoway is equivalent to 3000 being left out of work in Glasgow.

Western Isles: Jobs blow has highlighted economic crisis.
Western Isles: Jobs blow has highlighted economic crisis. Geograph

By Murdo Maclean

The Western Isles is facing an economic crisis, sparked by a huge jobs blow and growing numbers of young people leaving for the mainland.

Talk Talk is shutting down its base on Stornoway to centralise its operations in Manchester - leaving 59 staff without a job.

While the job figures may seem modest, the Western Isles Council has pointed out that it's the equivalent of 3000 redundancies in Glasgow.

"In such a small community like ours, 60 or so jobs is the same as many hundreds," echoes Kenneth Macleod, boss of Macleod and Macleod butchers - one of three producers of the famed Stornoway black pudding.

"If a similar scale of redundancies happened in a place like Glasgow they'd be making a big commotion about it.

"At crucial times like this, it's important for government to step in and help. They would, if this was Glasgow."

Black pudding: Stornoway's famous export.
Black pudding: Stornoway's famous export. © STV

In contrast, the recent announcement of 180 workers caught up in the closure of Springburn rail works provoked an outcry with one trade union condemning it as "industrial vandalism".

Michelin's decision to cease making tyres in Dundee resulted in the speedy establishment of Scottish Government-led action, plus, last week, a royal visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Also attracting huge attention was the collapse of construction company McGill, affecting workers spread across Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee.

But headline figures don't tell the whole story and ignores the mammoth impact modest numbers of redundancies have on low-populated rural communities.

Starkly putting the TalkTalk closure in perspective is a briefing note circulated to councillors from the authority's economic advisers explaining: "With induced and indirect impacts the loss of 59 jobs will result in a total job loss figure of 74 jobs.

"There are approximately 10,000 jobs in the Western Isles economy so this represents a loss of 0.74% of the workforce.

"The Glasgow economy has a total employment figure of 443,000. Loss of 0.74% of that workforce would therefore equate to circa 3300 jobs in Glasgow."

'Real body blow' for local economy

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan warns the ramifications in the struggling island economy "cannot be overstated"

"It is proportionate to job losses in the thousands for a city the size of Glasgow," he says. "This is a real body blow to Lewis."

From his shop in the Stornoway's narrow Church Street, Kenneth Macleod describes the call centre shutdown as "massive" which will inevitably inflict a "huge knock-on effect" in various ways.

"It's bad enough for islanders who are already out of work and trying to find employment, for an extra 60 people to come onto the job market," he says.

Alasdair Allan: Worried for local economy.
Alasdair Allan: Worried for local economy. © STV

"There's going to be more people chasing the same vacancies, that's not good at all."

And, there will be "less spending as people become more careful" and watch the pennies.

Though customers may opt for less expensive cuts of meat, butcher shops in the town will survive this latest blow, he believes, but undoubtedly there will be an "impact on some businesses."

Exodus as young people head for mainland

Later this month, the harsh implications of TalkTalk's decision will face island councillors as they discuss the need to save £10m over four years.

The economic crisis is resulting in a growing exodus of young people heading for opportunity on mainland Scotland.

One council report outlines a bleak future, revealing: "In order to sustain an economic position equivalent to that of 2010, 1500 new jobs and 2200 replacement jobs by 2028 would need to be created."

It warns that increasing young people will leave and never return.

Population decline in the Western Isles is dramatic. School rolls have fallen year-on-year for three decades. There are now just over 3300 pupils, when 32 years ago there were 6000.

Overall, the Western Isles population is projected to fall by nearly 14% over the next two decades from 27,250 in 2014 to 23,515 in 2039.

Numbers of pensioners are set to rise by an estimated 11% but there will be far fewer carers and health workers to look after them with a 21% reduction in the working-age population.

A separate economic study indicated around 37% of island youth want to work in the Western Isles but only 25% believe there are good opportunities for getting a job locally.

Numerous schools have shut in recent years while pupil rolls continue to decline resulting in less central government income to provide public services.

Once thriving rural communities have increasing numbers of vacant properties, vacant crofts and public buildings with low occupancy, says the report.

Modernising broadband connections is an important part of the strategy to create jobs for the future.

But, even a major £146m internet infrastructure upgrade involving laying superfast fibre cable across the seabed to the Hebrides cannot persuade TalkTalk not to ship out across the border.

'We are committed to doing everything possible to address this situation urgently in the hope of obtaining a positive outcome'
Scottish Government spokesperson

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We take all job losses seriously, wherever they might happen, and alongside our enterprise agencies, we offer as much support as possible in order to secure a positive outcome if they do arise.

"In the unfortunate event of individuals facing redundancy, we stand ready to provide support through our Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (Pace) initiative.

"We are concerned to learn of the developments at TalkTalk in Stornoway and the impact this will have on the employees affected, their families as well as the broader local economy.

"Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Government's economic development agency, is in direct contact with the company to explore all potential opportunities and we are committed to doing everything possible to address this situation urgently in the hope of obtaining a positive outcome."

Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.


We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.


Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.


Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.



Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.