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Scottish Executive Urban Rural Classification 2003-2004

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SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE URBAN RURAL CLASSIFICATION 2003-2004

Frequently Asked Questions

How will the Scottish Executive and its partners use the classification?

The Scottish Executive will use the classification to improve the rural evidence base.

The Scottish Executive's Partnership Agreement sets out that the Scottish Executive will ensure that rural and remote communities have their distinct needs reflected across the range of government policy and initiatives. This classification supports the commitment and develops our understanding of the issues facing urban, rural and remote Scotland.

How widely has the classification been used to date?

The classification has been widely used and recent publications include:

Social Justice Annual Report 2003 - Indicators of Progress: This technical report provides an impartial assessment of progress against the Social Justice milestones.

Social Focus on Urban Rural Scotland: This report explores the relationship between people living in urban, rural, and remote areas of Scotland.

Scotland's People: Results from the 2001/2002 Scottish Household Survey (Volume 7: Annual Report) - provides results for 2001 and 2002.

Living in Scotland: An Urban Rural Analysis of the Scottish Household Survey

What are the categories included in the classification?

The classification has been designed to be simple and easy to understand and apply. It distinguishes between urban, rural and remote areas within Scotland and includes the following categories:

Scottish Executive Urban Rural Classification

1 Large Urban Areas

Settlements of over 125,000 people.

2 Other Urban Areas

Settlements of 10,000 to 125,000 people.

3 Accessible Small Towns

Settlements of between 3,000 and 10,000 people and within 30 minutes drive of a settlement of 10,000 or more.

4 Remote Small Towns

Settlements of between 3,000 and 10,000 people and with a drive time of over 30 minutes to a settlement of 10,000 or more.

5 Accessible Rural

Settlements of less than 3,000 people and within 30 minutes drive of a settlement of 10,000 or more.

6 Remote Rural

Settlements of less than 3,000 people and with a drive time of over 30 minutes to a settlement of 10,000 or more.

Is the classification consistent with the Executive's core definition of rurality?

The Scottish Executive core definition of rurality classifies settlements of 3,000 or less people to be rural. The Scottish Executive Urban Rural Classification can be collapsed to the core definition. Categories 5 and 6 are rural and categories 1 to 4 are urban.

Core Definition of Rurality

Urban

Large Urban Areas, Other Urban Areas, Accessible Small Towns, Remote Small Towns

Rural

Accessible Rural, Remote Rural

Can the classification be used to distinguish between accessible and remote, irrespective of rurality?

Settlements containing less than 10,000 people and with a drive time of over 30 minutes to a settlement of 10,000 or more are defined to be remote areas. These are categories 4 and 6 in the classification.

Accessible Remote Classification

Accessible

Large Urban Areas, Other Urban Areas, Accessible Small Towns, Accessible Rural

Remote

Remote Small Towns, Remote Rural

Why have you changed the name of the classification?

The classification was previously called the Scottish Household Survey Urban Rural Classification. It's original name reflected the fact that it was developed within the context of the SHS. To reflect its wider use beyond SHS, we have changed its name to the Scottish Executive Urban Rural Classification.

How was the Scottish Executive Urban Rural classification produced?

Two main criteria have been used to produce the Scottish Executive 6 and 8 fold urban rural classifications: settlement size as defined by the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) and accessibility based on drive time analysis to differentiate between accessible and remote areas in Scotland. The Settlements and accessibility data are then combined to create a Scotland wide classification. A report describing the process for producing the classification is included in Annex A

How are settlement sizes estimated and what settlement size thresholds are used?

Within the 2003-2004 Urban Rural Classification the settlement size is determined by mapping the 2001 Census output areas (which contain on average 50 households).

GROS hold information on the number of addresses contained within each postcode and its boundary, from which the area and the density of population have been calculated. This information is then used to select areas of contiguous high density postcodes that make up a Settlement.

Population thresholds used to distinguish between urban and rural areas (i.e. 3,000, 10,000 and 125,000) are used to classify the Settlements dataset into 'large urban areas', 'other urban areas', 'small towns' or 'rural areas'.

How are drive times estimated?

Drive times are then estimated around Settlements classed as 'large urban areas' and 'other urban areas' (population greater than 10,000) to distinguish between accessible and remote areas. For example, in the 6-fold classification, Remote Small Towns are those that fall outwith the 30 minute drive time from a settlement of 10,000 people or more.

Can the classification be extended to distinguish between remote and very remote areas?

An 8-fold version of the classification has been produced which produces two new categories - very remote small towns and very remote rural. The 8-fold version classifies remote areas on drive times of 30 and 60 minutes. It includes the following categories:

Scottish Executive Urban Rural Classification

1 Large Urban Areas

Settlements of over 125,000 people.

2 Other Urban Areas

Settlements of 10,000 to 125,000 people.

3 Accessible Small Towns

Settlements of between 3,000 and 10,000 people and within 30 minutes drive of a settlement of 10,000 or more.

4 Remote Small Towns*

Settlements of between 3,000 and 10,000 people and with a drive time of between 30 and 60 minutes to a settlement of 10,000 or more.

5 Very Remote Small Towns

Settlements of between 3,000 and 10,000 people and with a drive time of over 60 minutes to a settlement of 10,000 or more.

6 Accessible Rural

Settlements of less than 3,000 people and within 30 minutes drive of a settlement of 10,000 or more.

7 Remote Rural*

Settlements of less than 3,000 people and with a drive time of between 30 and 60 minutes to a settlement of 10,000 or more.

8 Very Remote Rural

Settlements of less than 3,000 people and with a drive time of over 60 minutes to a settlement of 10,000 or more.

*The Remote Small Towns and Remote Rural categories in the 8-fold classification should not be confused with the similarly labelled categories in the 6-fold classification.

How does the classification relate to local authorities and health board areas?

The classification can be used to show the degree of urbanity, rurality and remoteness within larger areas. For example, Table 1 shows that some local authorities are predominantly urban, others are predominantly remote and rural whilst others are very diverse and have high proportions in many of the classifications.

When will the next update to the classification happen?

A 2005-2006 classification will be produced in spring 2006 to coincide with the two year sweep of the Scottish Household Survey.

How will the classification take account of new methods of estimating the population of settlements?

GROS are currently developing a methodology for producing small area population estimates for Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics and working on ways to ensure that Settlement population estimates are consistent with this methodology. We intend to use the settlement size estimates from this new methodology in the 2005-2006 version of the Scottish Executive Urban Rural Classification.

What previous versions of the classification do the Scottish Executive hold?

The Scottish Executive hold the 2000 6-fold urban rural classification which is based on Settlements 2000 and the 2001 6-fold and 8-fold urban rural classifications based on Settlements 2001.

  • 2003-2004 Scottish Executive Urban Rural Classification
  • 2001 Scottish Household Survey Urban Rural Classification
  • 2000 Scottish Household Survey Urban Rural Classification

Settlements 2000 and Settlements 2001 use postal address information to estimate the settlement populations. As already stated, the 2003-2004 Urban Rural Classification uses 2001 Census populations to estimate the settlement sizes.

What are the main changes between the 2001 and 2003-2004 Scottish Executive Urban Rural classifications?

The changes between the 2001 and the 2003-2004 classifications stem from settlements whose population fluctuates around the 10,000 and 3,000 mark as these are the population thresholds used to distinguish between urban and rural areas.

Fort William's (Highland) population is estimated to be below 10,000 in the 2003-2004 classification, the 2001 classification (using Settlements 2001) estimated its population to be above 10,000. This affects not only it's own classification (it has become a small town) but the surrounding area will no longer be classed as accessible. Instead areas surrounding Fort William will be classified as remote rural

High Valleyfield (Fife), West Calder (West Lothian) and Dollar (Clackmannanshire) had estimated populations greater than 3,000 in the 2001 classification but for the 2003-2004 classification their population estimates are below 3,000 and they move from being classed as a small town to a rural area. Kirkliston (City of Edinburgh) and Drongan (East Ayrshire) had population estimates below 3,000 In the 2001 classification but greater than 3,000 in the 2003-2004 classification and they are now classed as small towns.

It is important to note that the 2003-2004 Urban Rural Classification uses the most reliable small area population estimates to determine settlement size.

Why did you use 2001 census output areas as the geography to create the Scottish Executive Urban Rural Classification 2003-2004?

Settlement 2001 population estimates based on aggregations of Census 2001 Output Areas along with settlement boundaries also built up from Output Areas were used in this project in preference to the postcode derived Settlements 2001 dataset as they are the most accurate population estimates currently available.

Are socio-economic statistics about the underlying settlements available?

Yes the 2001 Census includes information about settlements:

Key Statistics for Settlements and Localities Scotland

Can the Executive's data zone geography be classified as rural?

The data zones have been assigned to the 6-fold classification. Each data zone has been assigned to the category of the classification for which the majority of its census output areas lie. Information about data zones can be found at:

Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics Data Zones Background Information: This report sets out background information on the development and use of data zones and answers the questions which arose during the final phase of consultation with local authorities.

Do data zones straddle the urban rural classification?

Data zones were not designed to nest within the urban rural classification and as a result some data zones do straddle the urban rural classification. A measure of the effect of straddling can be determined by the percentage of output areas which are assigned to the same category under the data zone classification and the census output area classification:

  • 99 per cent of census output areas are correctly assigned to large urban areas
  • 98 per cent of census output areas are correctly assigned to other urban areas
  • 95 per cent of census output areas are correctly assigned to accessible small towns
  • 97 per cent of census output areas are correctly assigned to remote small towns
  • 93 per cent of census output areas are correctly assigned to accessible rural
  • 93 per cent of census output areas are correctly assigned to remote rural

What is the effect of data zones straddling the classification?

Users should be aware that the classification of data zones is a best fit classification. Table 7 below shows the differences between the data zone and output area classifications at the output area level. The Scottish Executive are assessing whether the data zone classification introduces bias in to distributions of key statistical measures.

Users are encouraged to use the census output area (and postcode) version of the classification wherever possible.

How can the classification be added to my data source?

At the heart of the classification is the postcode and the Scottish Executive are providing postcode, census output area and data zone look-up tables which assign each of these areas to the classification. Therefore if you have data at postcode, census output area or data zone, the classification can be easily added to your data.

Users should reference the version of the classification being used accordingly:

  • 2003-2004 Scottish Executive Urban Rural Classification
  • 2001 Scottish Household Survey Urban Rural Classification
  • 2000 Scottish Household Survey Urban Rural Classification

How do I get a copy of the classification boundaries and look-up tables?

The classification boundaries in shapefile format and the look-up tables in .txt format can be downloaded from this link.

Will you maintain the links between postcodes and the classification?

GROS intend to add the Scottish Executive Urban Rural Classification 2003-2004 to the standard GROS Postcode Index.

Is there a UK wide classification?

Separate definitions in Scotland and Northern Ireland have been in use for a number of years. A new definition for England and Wales is being developed and the work is being led by the Office for National Statistics. Different definitions are required in different countries as the nature of rurality is different in these countries.