LAST February should have been a perfect time as my fiancé Alex had agreed to marry me. One snag. We had nowhere of our own to start married life. And after two years of searching, the chances of finding even a long let looked grim. Why? Because we live and work in one of the most beautiful, sought-after tourist magnets in Britain, the Isle of Skye. Great for Airbnb, not so great for locals.

I was born on Lewis and brought up on Skye. I went to school on Skye. My first job on a fishing boat was on Skye. I worked my way up through the island’s hospitality trade to work in hotel management.

The only thing that’s been kept outwith my reach has been a house on Skye, the island that’s been my home for the past 30 years.

Alex is Polish, in her mid-twenties and works in hospitality. I’m 31 and took a night-shift job at a local supermarket earlier this year so I’d have time to campaign as a candidate in the local elections.

We wanted to set a date for the wedding but kept putting it off in the hope we might find a house first, instead of starting married life living with my parents. No offence, mum and dad!

We looked on the mainland, even as far away as Inverness, although that would mean quitting our jobs. We were getting desperate. Finally, a family friend with a holiday home gave us the property as a long let. It’s great, but if we were to ever think about having a family, we’d have to find something bigger.

We’ve been offered a plot of land but building costs are prohibitive. The price of materials has tripled thanks to Brexit and Covid. A builder friend estimates a one-bedroom house would cost £200,000 to build – and that’s before the cost of land. Half-acre plots here are currently going for more than £120,000. Hopefully independence means re-joining the EU, so that Scotland has full access to the European market again.

But that’ll take a wee while.

Meanwhile, my generation is stuck.

Childhood friends have moved away. Others live in caravans – one friend’s caravan is right beside his parents’ house. It’s all that young working folk on Skye can hope to have.

And that has an impact on the whole island economy. There’s a Facebook page – Skye & Lochalsh Properties to Rent – where you can see the problems for yourselves. Many NHS workers have jobs but need accommodation. Last week, a GP was appealing for help. Visitors don’t see the homelessness; they only see the limited opening hours of hotels and restaurants as so few locals are available to fill vacancies.

All of this prompted me to stand for Alba in the recent council elections and write their housing emergency policy. It calls for an open public register of short-term lets and second homes, and for councils to get all legal measures to provide affordable housing in places like Skye. I’ve also called for a working group to examine the effectiveness of measures taken in other countries to increase affordable housing in areas of high second-home ownership.

A good local model is the Staffin Community Trust. In the application process for one of its homes, priority is given to local young people and those who work or have family nearby. To be honest, without that kind of positive discrimination, I don’t see myself being able to buy property on Skye before I retire.

The asking price for a property might be £120,000 but it can sell for £250,000. Even if we could afford this kind of mortgage, cash buyers from wealthier regions of the UK will always edge it. Locals are fighting an unwinnable battle.

We need young people in rural communities to stop schools closing. The roll for Portree High School has dropped by more than 20% in the past 10 years, while the overall population has risen. That’s an astonishing fact all Highland politicians should find alarming.

I know how much Skye benefits from tourism. It creates jobs, income for local B&Bs, local self-catering and other business opportunities. So, I think short-term lets are important, but we need to change how we view them. There is a world of difference between short-term lets that supplement a modest rural income or keep a property for family members planning to return to the island, and companies or individuals from outwith the area buying up properties to boost their multi short-term-let portfolio and extracting wealth but putting little back into the local communities they are effectively exploiting.

Covid has also meant more home working which has exacerbated the situation. We are facing a housing emergency. Without affordable housing, a second “Clearance” will take place in our Highlands and Islands’ communities.

The Scottish Government and councils have built a mix of private and social housing. But it is not enough.

Legislation allowing councils to establish Short-Term Let (STL) Control Areas came into force a year ago. But so far only two local authorities have applied: Edinburgh Council (for the whole council area) and Highland Council for the ward of Badenoch and Strathspey.

That’s progress, but the wards of Skye and Lochalsh and Wester Ross are also thought to have second-home ownership rates in excess of 20%.

Earlier this month, the Highland Living Rent Group asked all council candidates if they’d pledge to conduct the formal community consultation needed to introduce an STL Control Area in their ward and if they’d support the measure in other wards where local residents are supportive. I backed it and hope the new council will take the suggestion seriously.

I’ll keep pushing this within Alba, but for those who back other indy parties, please support Living Rent’s campaign. We urgently need to start treating housing as a human right, not as a means of making profit. This is much bigger than party politics. It’s about holding on to our well-adapted island populations, so independence doesn’t come too late.