Exploring the future of Scotland’s islands: a two-day conference in Orkney

The ‘Islands – future’ conference, organised by the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), will be held in Orkney from Friday 21 June to Saturday 22 June, taking place at The Pickaquoy Centre in Kirkwall.

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An aerial photo of Kirkwall, Orkney. Credit Getty

This event marks the third and final instalment of the ‘Islands – past, present and future’ series, with each event taking place in a different island community. The series began with ‘Islands – past’ at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye, followed by ‘Islands – present’ hosted by UHI North, West and Hebrides in Stornoway, and now concludes with ‘Islands – future’ in Orkney.

‘Islands – future’ is an essential event for anyone invested in the well-being and prosperity of Scotland’s islands. Attendees will gain insights into cutting-edge research, sustainable practices, and strategic initiatives designed to enhance island life. Whether you’re a policymaker, researcher, local resident, or industry professional, this conference provides a platform to connect, share ideas, and collaborate on shaping a resilient and thriving future for the islands.

The conference will delve into critical and diverse themes including sustainable economies, archaeological pursuits, youth outmigration, marine biology, and environmental stewardship. Bringing together leading experts and community voices, it aims to inspire innovative solutions and foster meaningful discussions about the challenges and opportunities facing these vibrant communities.

Key speakers from a range of disciplines, including UHI’s Professor Donna Heddle, will address issues central to the future of Orkney and other island communities. Professor Heddle, Head of Research Environment and Culture and Director the Institute for Northern Studies at UHI, and recently elected Fellow of the RSE said: “The future of islands both environmentally and culturally, should concern us all as they are microcosms of the world at large. I am delighted to be speaking at this event in Orkney on the future for cultural tourism and the challenges we face as island communities”.

Professor Neil Simco, UHI Deputy Principal Academic and Research said: “UHI is delighted to be working in partnership with RSE and HIE on the ‘Islands—past, present and future’ event series. Together these events confirm not only our partnership with the RSE and HIE, but also our ongoing commitment as a university to the communities throughout the islands, as exemplified in our Islands Strategy.”

Professor Des Thompson FRSE, Principal Adviser on Biodiversity and Science at NatureScot, Fellow of the RSE, and one of the organisers of the event, added: “In the future of the islands of Scotland we see an abundance of natural resources, talent, ingenuity, and opportunities.” 

“Rooted in the past, but always looking ahead, we must build on the phenomenal base of knowledge and culture. Working collaboratively and with determination, we can make sure the Islands and their people continue to inspire progress globally.   Often viewed as being ‘on the edge, but actually myriad in features and fascination, these are quite simply amongst the best of places on planet Earth.”

See the full programme and book tickets online: https://rse.org.uk/whats-on/event/islands-future/