When I meet young people in Inverclyde for the first time I always ask them two questions. Firstly, ‘how are you?’ and secondly, ‘what’s your goals in life?’

Depending on who I speak to I get different answers. Some have a clear vision for the future and others still await their calling.

However, a theme that is consistent no matter where I go is that young people are prepared to leave Inverclyde.

It’s not that they are desperate to leave, it is that there is no reason to stay.

From the medicine student to the apprentice plumber, the same conclusion has been reached: ‘there is nothing left for us here'.

Years of depopulation and a lack of vision has led us to this stalemate. We built fantastic new school campuses but we failed to build a thriving local economy for young people to enter after their education.

Inverclyde has been successful at achieving positive destinations for young people after school but often these destinations lie beyond Port Glasgow and along the M8.

This is unsustainable and we must not ignore the depopulation that is taking place in front of our eyes.

In order to find solutions, our leaders must first accept collective responsibility.

In order to make progress, they must realise the mistakes of the past and learn from them.

Unfortunately, it seems decision-makers don’t want to discuss this issue and as a result, the depopulation continues.

I see things from an optimistic perspective. We have to take pride in our area. It should be demonstrated that Inverclyde’s successful past can lead us to a bright future.

Young people have the skills and talents that can unlock our community’s full potential, let’s give them hope.

All young people need to hear is a positive vision for Inverclyde, a vision that we can buy into.

I often find myself being the anomaly in my social circles, the only one who values this area and sees a future here.

That is the same feeling I want all young people in Inverclyde to have.

We should celebrate our scenic views, our public parks and our local restaurants. We should take pride in our schools and their fantastic achievements.

However, when parents who have lived in Inverclyde all their lives are telling their children to get out of the area as quickly as possible, there is an undeniable issue that needs to be addressed.

The future lies in the hands of the next generation. Young people simply won’t stay here unless we make a positive case for Inverclyde and all of its benefits.

I challenge the Tele’s readership: ask your young people whether or not they can see themselves living in Inverclyde long- term.

Let’s open a dialogue between the generations and work together to come up with solutions to the issue of depopulation. Let’s be optimistic about the future but realistic about the present at the same time.

Young people will stay in Inverclyde if they have a purpose here. Let’s give them that purpose.