In the past, much rural development planning has relied on the concept of growth poles. With the “new rural paradigm”, we find that place-specific development and bottom-up approaches have become more popular than ever. Such place-based development often envisages the use of social capital. However, insofar as social capital is a local asset that is incorporated in individuals, it can easily be destroyed but not easily rebuilt. Continued out-migration and low in-migration into rural areas can have detrimental effects on social capital, and subsequently weaken bottom-up processes in the short and medium term. This paper - based on a survey of 1412 persons in northern Scotland - suggests that intensified migratory processes destroy social capital in rural remote as well as in urban areas. The results show that not only does actual out-migration decrease the available stock of social capital but also that mere intentions to out-migrate do so as well. Insofar as social capital can be built or re-built only in the long term, policies are therefore needed that offer potential out-migrants place-specific opportunities and increase the rate of integration of in-migrants.