We are testing a new beta website for gov.scot go to new site

Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2007-2008

Listen

Frequently Asked Questions

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

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

The Scottish Government acknowledges that issues such as transport, education and health can have a particular impact on rural communities and seeks to reflect this in mainstream policy development. This classification aids in developing 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:

Rural Scotland: Better Still, Naturally: A stock take of rural Scotland with some consideration of how rural areas might look like in the future by stakeholders.

Scotland's People: Results from the 2005/2006 Scottish Household Survey Annual Report - provides results for 2006.

Rural Scotland Key Facts 2007: 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.

Annual Population Survey in Scotland 2007: A Compendium of Labour Market Statistics

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 Government 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 Scottish Government's core definition of rurality?

The Scottish Government core definition of rurality classifies settlements of 3,000 or less people to be rural. The Scottish Government 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 Government Urban Rural classification produced?

Two main criteria have been used to produce the Scottish Government 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 2006 postcode units as high or low density. This information was then used to identify areas of contiguous high density postcodes with a population of 500 or more that make up a Settlement. Details of the methodology used for the Mid-2006 Population Estimates for Settlements can be found at Mid 2006 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 2006 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 Government 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 2009-2010 classification will be produced in autumn 2010 to coincide with the two year sweep of the Scottish Household Survey.

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

The Scottish Government 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). The 2005-2006 and 2007-2008 classifications are based upon Settlements 2004 and Settlements 2006 respectively.

  • 2007-2008 Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification
  • 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. The 2005-2006 and 2007-2008 Urban Rural Classification 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 Government Urban Rural Classification.

What are the main changes that result from applying the 2007-2008 rather than the 2005-2006 Scottish Government Urban Rural classifications?

The differences between the 2005-2006 and the 2007-2008 classifications stem from changes to either settlement populations or settlement boundaries.

A classification will change if the settlement population crosses the 10,000 and 3,000 marks as these are the population thresholds used to distinguish between urban and rural areas. In the 2005-2006 classification, New Cumnock (East Ayrshire) had an estimated population greater than 3,000. This estimate drops below 3,000 for the 2007-2008 classification, and New Cumnock moves from being classed as a small town to a rural area. Callander (Stirling), Drongan (East Ayrshire) and Kintore (Aberdeenshire) had population estimates below 3,000 in the 2005-2006 classification, but have risen above the 3,000 mark for 2007-2008 and are now classed as small towns as opposed to rural areas. Also, one settlement has crossed the 10,000 population threshold. The population of Armadale (West Lothian) has risen above 10,000 and is now classed as an other urban area, as opposed to small town.

Changes to settlements boundaries may cause previously separate settlements to be merged with each other (or, conversely, one settlement becoming split into two or more separate settlements). This may cause the resulting settlements to cross the 10,000 or 3,000 population thresholds. Wemyss Bay (Inverclyde) and Skelmorlie (North Ayrshire) both previously had estimates under 3,000, but, because of boundary changes, were merged together and the new combined settlement is now classed as a small town. Similarly, Peterculter and Milltimber (Aberdeen City) were merged together resulting in a new settlement that is classed as a small town. The rural area settlement of East Whitburn (West Lothian) was merged with Whitburn and is classed as an other urban area for the 2007-2008 classification. Banknock (Falkirk), Blackburn (West Lothian) and Hallglen (Falkirk) were merged with Bonnybridge, Bathgate and Falkirk respectively to move from being classed as small towns to other urban areas. Rural areas Hawkhead and Plains have been amalgamated to the large urban area of Glasgow for the 2007-2008 classification.

In terms of assessing accessibility, the same method of calculating the 30 and 60 minute drive times was used as in the previous 2005-2006 classification, and as a result changes are minimal. The 2007-2008 classification does, however, apply a new version of the Scottish coastline.

Some minor changes are due to changes in the area of a settlement, as defined by GROS. For example, Lerwick (Shetland) has increased in size meaning a greater area is classed as remote small town, whereas Armadale (West Lothian) has decreased in size.

Since the drive times are calculated from settlements with a population estimate of 10,000 or greater, only changes to these settlements would have a significant effect on the resulting drive times. Again, changes between the 2005-2006 and 2007-2008 are fairly minimal, but a couple of examples are noted. The settlement of Penicuik (Midlothian) changed shape and composition such that the population weighted centroid has shifted to the north east. This has resulted in the region to the south west becoming slightly less accessible (i.e. the 30 minute drive-time boundary has shifted north eastwards). Similarly, shape changes and centroid shifts have resulted in greater accessibility to the south west of East Kilbride and Hamilton (South Lanarkshire) and to the north of Galashiels (Scottish Borders).

Are socio-economic statistics to support the classification available?

Yes, Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics is the Scottish Government'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 Scottish Government'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 based upon the location of it's population weighted centroid. 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:

  • 99.8 per cent of census output areas are correctly assigned to large urban areas
  • 99.7 per cent of census output areas are correctly assigned to other urban areas
  • 98.7 per cent of census output areas are correctly assigned to accessible small towns
  • 98.7 per cent of census output areas are correctly assigned to remote small towns
  • 92.4 per cent of census output areas are correctly assigned to accessible rural
  • 94.5 per cent of census output areas are correctly assigned to remote rural

In previous versions of the classification, data zones were assigned to an urban/rural category based upon the classification of the majority of output areas within each data zone. The centroid method has increased the number of output areas given a different classification under the data zone and output area indexes, however, this difference is very marginal, and the new method falls in line with the way centroids are used to determine other geographic boundary relationships for Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics.

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 Government 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:

  • 2007-2008 Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification
  • 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 6-fold classification boundaries can be downloaded from here.

The 8-fold classification boundaries can be downloaded from here.

The look-up tables can be downloaded from here.

Will you maintain the links between postcodes and the classification?

GROS intend to add the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2007-2008 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 introduced in 2004.
rural definition for England and Wales DEFRA

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