Islands – future 

Join us for Islands – future, a conference dedicated to exploring the future of Scotland’s islands.  

This unique gathering will delve into critical and diverse themes from sustainable economies, archaeological pursuits and youth outmigration, to marine biology and environmental stewardship. By bringing together leading experts and community voices, we aim to inspire innovative solutions and foster meaningful discussions about these vibrant communities’ challenges and opportunities.

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 event offers a platform to connect, share ideas, and collaborate on shaping a resilient and thriving future for the islands.

Islands – past, present, and future 

The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Islands—past, present, and future event series spotlights the complex stories of Scotland’s Island communities, looking back, taking stock, and imagining the future. With each instalment taking place in a different island community and live-streamed to ensure the widest possible reach, the Royal Society of Edinburgh aims to support networks of learning and knowledge sharing in the Islands as well as Scotland as a whole.  This series is in partnership with UHI and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

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You can also join our online panel discussion, care in remote island communities, as part of the conference.


Day 1: Friday 21 June

Islands – future | Looking ahead to a sustainable economy, health and wellbeing

13:00 – 13:10 | Welcome and introduction

13:15 – 13:40 | An introduction to the Scottish islands | Professor Christopher A Whatley OBE, FRSE

13:45 – 14:10 | Creative archaeology in the digital university | Dr Antonia Thomas

14:15 – 14:35 | Break

14:35 – 15:00 | The future of marine environment | Dr Joanne Porter

15:05 – 15:30 | The Scottish islands and youth migration | Dr Rosie Alexander

15:35 – 16:00 | Rising tides: the future for cultural tourism in island archipelagos | Professor Donna Heddle FRSE

16:05 – 17:00 | Speakers to be announced

Day 2: Saturday 22 June

Islandsfuture | (Opportunities for culture, communities and the environment)

9:00 – 9:10 | Welcome and introduction

9:15 – 9:40 | Scotland’s islands: multiple futures | Professor Michael Anderson FRSE

9:45 – 10:10 | Offshore marine renewables | Erica Knott

10:35 – 11:00 | Community as a decarbonisation technology | Dr Becky Ford

11:05 12:00 | Speakers to be announced

12:05 – 12:30 Closing | Professor Des Thompson FRSE and Professor Christopher A Whatley OBE, FRSE



Principal Adviser on Biodiversity and Science, NatureScot

With more than 30 years’ experience working in government agencies, Des was the Principal Adviser on Biodiversity and Science with NatureScot, Scotland’s Nature Agency.  He worked closely with the Scottish Government devising the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy 2022-2045, and its Delivery Plan. Now a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellow his interests include the conservation ecology of north European shorebirds and science-policy biodiversity decision making.  He is a member of the UN Technical Advisory Group supporting the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (founder chair for ten years), member of the Scottish Government’s Biodiversity Programme Advisory Group, Specialty Chief Editor of the journal Bird Conservation and Management, and Vice President (and former Chair of the Board of Trustees) of the Field Studies Council.  With specialist interests in upland and arctic-alpine environments, publishing more than 15 books, he took his PhD and DSc from the University of Nottingham, and hails from the small village of Culrain in Sutherland.
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Emeritus Professor, Scottish History, University of Dundee 

Christopher Whatley has written on a wide range of Scottish historical topics. These include book-length histories of the salt industry and Scotland’s industrial revolution, as well as challenging studies of Scottish society during this period. He is best known for his award-winning book and papers on the Union of 1707, and for his study of the legacy of Robert Burns. His most recent book is his acclaimed Pabay: An Island Odyssey (Birlinn, 2019), which is in part a personal account, (but also a serious history, of a small island where he spent much of his boyhood. 
In partnership with
  • University of Highlands and Islands logo
  • HIE logo


Friday June 21st - Saturday June 22nd, 2024


The Pickaquoy Centre