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Scottish Executive Urban Rural Classification 2005-2006

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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 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 2003 Scottish Household Survey Annual Report - provides results for 2003.

Rural Scotland Key Facts 2005: People and Communities, Services and Lifestyle, Economy and Enterprise - key facts related to rural Scotland.

Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics - Internet site containing a wide range of socio-economic statistics for small areas.

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 rest of Scotland (urban areas and small towns).

Core Definition of Rurality

Rest of Scotland

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

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?

GROSSmall Area Population Estimates ( SAPE) together with information from the Royal Mail Postcode Address File ( PAF) were used to classify 2004 postcode units as high or low density. This information was then used to select areas of contiguous high density postcodes that make up a Settlement. Details of the methodology used for the Mid-2004 Population Estimates for Settlements can be found at Mid 2004 population estimates for settlements.

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'.

GROS recommend users exercise caution when comparing the 2004 settlement population estimates with previous years. Whilst an increase in population may be due to new build, it may also be due to the inclusion of existing housing which had previously been separated by a low density postcode (and vice versa for a population decrease).

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 2007-2008 classification will be produced in spring 2008 to coincide with the two year sweep of the Scottish Household Survey.

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, the 2001 6-fold and 8-fold urban rural classifications based on Settlements 2001 and the 2003-2004 6-fold and 8-fold urban rural classifications based on Settlements 2001 (boundaries and population estimates based on aggregations of Census 2001 Output Areas).

  • 2005-2006 Scottish Executive Urban Rural Classification
  • 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. The 2003-2004 Urban Rural Classification uses 2001 Census populations to estimate the settlement sizes. As already stated, the 2005-2006 use GROS's SAPE and Royal Mail PAF to estimate settlement population.

All previous versions are readily available and depending on analysis, users may want to apply these or the current version to historic datasets. Users are encouraged to reference the version of the Urban Rural classification used.

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

What are the main changes that result from applying the 2005-2006 rather than the 2003-2004 Scottish Executive Urban Rural classifications?

The changes between the 2003-2004 and the 2005-2006 classifications stem from settlements whose population fluctuates around the 10,000 and 3,000 marks as these are the population thresholds used to distinguish between urban and rural areas.

Kennoway (Fife) and Drongan (East Ayrshire) had estimated populations greater than 3,000 in the 2003-2004 classification. For the 2005-2006 classification Drogan's population estimate drops below 3,000 and it moves from being classed as a small town to a rural area. Kennoway has been amalgamated with Buckhaven and so remains above the 3,000 population mark.

High Valleyfield (Fife) and Newtonhill (Aberdeenshire) had population estimates below 3,000 in the 2003-2004 classification but greater than 3,000 in the 2005-2006 classification. West Calder (West Lothian) has been amalgamated with Polbeth and subsequently its population has increased to over 3,000. All three settlements are now classed as accessible small towns.

In the 2003-2004 classification Peterculter | Milltimber (Aberdeen City) had an estimated population of over 3,000 and was classed as an accessible small town. This settlement has since been split into Peterculter which remains classified as an accessible small town, and Milltimber with a population of less than 3,000 and classed as accessible rural.

There is also some fluctuation in the over 10,000 population threshold. Both Stonehaven (Aberdeenshire) and Westhill (Aberdeenshire) now have estimated populations greater than 10,000 and for the 2005-2006 classification they are classed as other urban areas.

Inverkeithing | Dalgety Bay (Fife) with an estimated population greater than 10,000 in the 2003-2004 classification does not appear in the 2005-2006 classification. Inverkeithing | Dalgety Bay has been amalgamated with Dunfermline so the area remains above the 10,000 population and continues to be classed as other urban areas.

It is important to note that the 2005-2006 Urban Rural Classification uses small area population estimates from GROS to determine settlement size. Details of the methodology used for the Mid-2004 Population Estimates for Settlements can be found at Mid 2004 population estimates for settlements.

For the 2005-2006 Classification new drive time software and road network (now including ferry routes) have been used to produce the 30 and 60 minute drive times.

The use of new drive time software has created further changes between the 2003-2004 and the 2005-2006 classifications. For many Local Authorities the improved drive times have lead to a reduction in percentage classed Accessible Rural and an increase in percentage classed Remote Rural, most notably Argyll & Bute, Dumfries & Galloway, East Ayrshire, Highland and Moray.

The improved drive times mean those settlements that were on the edge of the 30 minutes drive time in the 2003-2004 classification are now classed as remote. Castle Douglas (Dumfries & Galloway), Dingwall (Highland), Nairn (Highland), Buckie (Moray), Keith (Moray), Crieff (Perth & Kinross) and Blairgowrie (Perth & Kinross) have all moved from Accessible Small Town to Remote Small Town.

Some changes are due to the difference in the area of a settlement, as defined by GROS. The settlement of Steornabhagh (Stornoway) (Eilean Siar) has reduced in size increasing the area classed as Remote Small Town and Livingston (West Lothian) has increased in size, increasing the area classed as Other Urban Areas.

Are socio-economic statistics to support the classification available?

Yes, Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics is the Scottish Executive's on-going programme to improve the availability, consistency and accessibility of statistics in Scotland. It contains a wide range of socio-economic statistics for small areas.

www.sns.gov.uk

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 ZonesBackground 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
  • 99 per cent of census output areas are correctly assigned to other urban areas
  • 99 per cent of census output areas are correctly assigned to accessible small towns
  • 98 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
  • 95 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.

Users are encouraged to use the census output area (and postcode) version of the classification wherever possible and to reference which version of the index has been used.

How can the classification be added to my data source?

At the heart of the classification is the postcode unit and the Scottish Executive are providing postcode unit, 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 level, the classification can be easily added to your data.

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

  • 2005-2006 Scottish Executive Urban Rural Classification
  • 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 and look-up tables can be downloaded here.

Will you maintain the links between postcodes and the classification?

GROS intend to add the Scottish Executive Urban Rural Classification 2005-2006 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 was published in 2004.

DEFRA rural definition for England and Wales

Different urban rural definitions are required as the nature of rurality is different in each country.