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14th May 2008


When Toby MacLean's parents decided to move from Shropshire to the Highland coastal resort of Portmahomack his first request was to insist they take him with them.

The family had holidayed in the area for many years and moved permanently in 1998 to be closer to Toby's grandparents.

"We'd been coming up two or three times a year so I knew the area really well and had already made a number of good friends," says Toby.

A decade later Toby is running a successful joinery business with his father and would never consider heading South again.

"The quality of life up here is second to none. The people are friendly and things are much more laid back than other parts of the UK. It's a fantastic place to be," he says.

Toby, 29, gets married later this year and his fiance Claire McGrory has already felt the pull of the Highlands.

"Claire worked in London but, like me, enjoyed holidays here. She moved up for good last year and hasn't looked back. My grandparents have both sadly died but Claire and I now live in their home so it's a bit like going back to your roots."

People between 15 and 30 from across the Highlands and Islands and beyond are being urged to have their say in a major online survey launched this week to discover the deciding factors behind living and working in the region.

Organisers are appealing to young people who have opted to stay in the Highlands and Islands; those who may return to the area and others who are considering moving to the region, to give their opinion of it as a place to live.

Hailed as the biggest of its kind for the area and with the chance of winning CD vouchers for anyone taking part, the survey runs for six weeks. Researchers are inviting a big response from young people to find out what they think about education, jobs, quality of life and communication in the region.

Its findings will form part of a comprehensive report by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) into the migration choices of 15 - 30-year-olds and what policies might be needed to see the numbers of young people choosing to live in the region increase.

Ruth Sime, development manager with HIE's population growth team says: "Young people are a vital part of a thriving Highlands and Islands. This is the first in depth online survey which aims to get to the heart of what young people really think and feel about life in the Highlands and Islands.

"If this region is to remain a great place to live and work we need to understand what the deciding factors are which encourage young people to stay and what might influence their decision to return sooner or indeed come here to live for the first time.

"These are big decisions in any young person's life so we're also very keen to hear from them what sorts of things are happening, or could happen in the future, which makes the decision to stay more attractive."

Designed to be quick and easy to do, the survey takes less than 10 minutes to fill in and can be completed by visiting

Jobs, career opportunities and affordable housing are traditionally big factors in young people deciding where their future might be. HIE's survey hopes to find out more about these plus other influences such as family, friends, the quality of life and any difference in attitude between those living in towns, remote rural areas and the islands.

The Highlands and Islands has often struggled to maintain high numbers of young people in its population with recent figures indicating that if the region had the same age structure as the rest of Scotland there would be 22,500 more young people aged between 16 and 29.

Ruth Sime says: "There are likely to be a number of push and pull factors that influence young people's migration choices and it's important we explore what they are and their relative levels of importance at different life stages."

It's anticipated the survey will draw to a close at the end of June and the analysed results available by early autumn.

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