THE lack of career opportunities in West Dunbartonshire is contributing to the ongoing population decline, according to Clydebank politicians.

New figures released by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) have shown the local population decline is the second highest across all council areas in Scotland.

Since 1998, West Dunbartonshire’s population has decreased by a total of 6.3 per cent – the second highest decrease percentage out of the 32 local authorities.

Meanwhile, over the same period, Scotland’s population rose by 7.6 per cent.

In response, Gil Paterson, Clydebank’s MSP, blamed a lack of job opportunities.

He said: “We have seen a steady decline in the population of West Dunbartonshire for some time now – while the overall population of Scotland is indeed going up.

“This is a historical issue, with Scotland seeing a substantial west to east long-term migration since deindustrialisation.

“The problem is West Dunbartonshire now lacks career opportunities for the working age population, so they are forced to go elsewhere in Scotland or beyond.”

The data showed that on June 30, 2019, the population of the area was 88,930 – a decrease of 0.2 per cent from 89,130 the previous year.

Mr Paterson added: “West Dunbartonshire remains an attractive place to live – with very affordable housing, great public transport and amenities.

“Many people choose to stay here because it is their home and they have a ‘sense of place’, and they long to see the area revived and regenerated.

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“It is a challenge I know West Dunbartonshire Council is very aware of and wishes to solve, so I hope it can lead the way.”

The council said that while there is no single reason for the population decrease, they will continue working with the Scottish Government and partners to address this, as well as identify areas within the area for re-population and growth.

A spokeswoman for WDC added: “We’ve invested in our parks and award winning new schools. We also have services in place to help residents secure employment, further education and training.”

There has only been one year since 1998 which saw a population increase.

In 2016, the number of people living in West Dunbartonshire went up by 270 to 89,860, from 89,590 the previous year, 2015.

The population then dropped to 89,610 in 2017.

Between 1998 and 2019, the 25 to 44 age group saw the largest percentage decrease (-23.3 per cent). Meanwhile, the 45 to 64 age group saw the largest percentage increase (+20.9 per cent).

Martin Docherty-Hughes, the area’s MP, said Clydebank and other deindustrialised areas of west central Scotland have for decades struggled with depopulation due to the “damaging legacy of the Thatcher years”.

He added: “I believe progress is being made, with investment in better housing, schools and infrastructure in Clydebank and across West Dunbartonshire.

“However, efforts to improve the working-age population here and across Scotland will continue to be undermined by Brexit and the UK Government’s hostile approach to migration.

“The long-term impact of the pandemic is also unclear, but whatever happens we must continue working to bring new jobs and investment to ensure the vibrancy and sustainability of our communities.”

In Clydebank, a total of 1,200 new homes will be built at Queens Quay, with another 1,000 new social homes aiming to be built across West Dunbartonshire over the next five years.