According to the Scottish Government’s Scottish Household Survey 2009 32% of adults living in Scotland are single and have never been married or in a civil partnership. 33% of households in Scotland contain only one adult. Predictions suggest that single households are likely to increase, with single adults comprising 44% of Scottish households by 2031.
Reasons for the increase in single households are numerous and include an aging population, the fact that young people move away to study/work, relationship breakdown and single people choosing to live alone. These are themes which are no doubt common to the majority of Western countries as family structures change, families disperse and technology makes it easier for people to keep in touch across cities, countries and continents. Scotland has had its own diaspora, with people of Scottish ancestry living all over the world. Yet this very distance from Scotland has produced cultural links and events that retain the knowledge and traditions of the Scottish homeland.
Why are we moving away from group, family and community living to living and surviving as individuals? Is this a way forward that can make us happy? My assessment is not – that we were never meant to live alone, that we are meant to live in communities, families, groups. Isolation, living in one person units without community or family support , is not the natural pattern for human nature. This is a pattern seen a lot in cities, where people living alone can be surrounded by neighbours who they do not know. It can also be seen in families which have created their own prison, with no room for people who need space or a different way of life, who need to break away. People who choose a different way of living may not be honoured for the risks they have taken to live a life less ordinary.
In the current worldwide recession some of the current models of living may not be sustainable. People may have to find different ways of living together, in harmony or difference. The luxury of living alone may become less practicable, less manageable, less valued. Different architectural models may need to evolve to sustain affordable single person units/living which includes shared spaces and resources.
So could it be that the traditional Scottish clan culture returns in a different form? That people are drawn together not just through blood ancestry but through needs and circumstance? That families can share childcare responsibilities, that people can live in mixed generational units that provide both wisdom and support in communities that can welcome everyone...