8 ADEQUACY OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION ABOUT THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT URBAN RURAL CLASSIFICATION
8.1 A key issue in relation to the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification is whether existing and potential users are able to access all the information required to enable them to make better use of the classification.
Attitudes towards Information and Communication
8.2 All respondents were asked to give their level of agreement with 2 attitudinal statements in relation to the provision of information on this classification. As shown in chart 8.1, a majority of respondents claimed that they had access to all information / associated guidance they needed (64%) or that the information / associated guidance they had access to is clear and easy to understand (69%). Less than 20% disagreed with either of these statements. At both statements, around a fifth said 'don't know'.
Chart 8.1: Levels of agreement with attitude statements on the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification
Source: QPA19; all respondents answering each statement
8.3 "I have access to all the information / associated guidance on the SG Urban Rural Classification that I need":
- Agreement with this statement was highest among those working in Agencies / NPDBs and Commercial Organisations and lowest among those from the SG.
- Disagreement came mainly from those working within Voluntary Organisations and Local Authorities. More policy respondents disagreed than analysts.
- Almost 1 in 5 said 'don't know' or 'not applicable'; this was highest amongst those working within SG and among non-users.
8.4 "The information / associated guidance I have access to on the SG Urban Rural Classification is clear and easy to understand":
- Higher proportions of those working within Agencies and Commercial Organisations agreed with this statement.
- Respondents from Voluntary Organisations again tended to disagree more than others.
- Almost a quarter said 'don't know' or 'not applicable'; again this figure was highest amongst those working within SG and among non-users.
8.5 Most respondents participating in telephone discussions felt they had enough information on the SG Urban Rural Classification, particularly those who used this on a regular basis and who had an analytical or statistical background. That said, some felt that they obtained information due to their own pro-activity rather than information automatically being supplied by the Scottish Government. A small number who had not been provided with information assumed they could readily access this if required via the Scottish Government website.
Usage of Updates
8.6 The Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification is updated every two years and 59% of analysts claimed to use each update when it is available. In terms of organisation they work for, highest proportions using the updates were found in the SG. In terms of Scottish Government directorate, this was highest among those in Environment and Economy.
Chart 8.2: Whether each update of the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification is used when available
Source: QA7; Analysts, n = 150
8.7 From the online survey, just over half of analysts claimed to be using the most recent update, released in August 2008.
8.8 Of those participating in the online survey, just over one in five were unaware as to which version they were using; this was highest among respondents from Voluntary Organisations and within the SG and lowest among those working in Private Consultancies.
8.9 Updates were also discussed during the telephone interviews, with respondents asked about the details given in their online responses. While some respondents noted they were automatically provided with information when a new download was available, this was not universal and some referred to obtaining information or updates via a colleague either at their place of work or via a contact within SG.
8.10 A quarter of those responding to the online survey claimed not to be using the August 2008 update. Highest proportions of those using the most recent update were in Local Authorities, 'Other' organisations and the Scottish Government.
8.11 In terms of the Scottish Government Directorates, highest proportions of those using the most recent version were within Economy and Environment.
Chart 8.3: Whether August 2008 Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification is being used
Source: QA8; Analysts, n = 150
8.12 A large majority (80%) of those claiming to use each update when it becomes available were currently using the updated August 2008 version. Of the small number (n = 37) not using the updated August 2008 version, key reasons given were that they did not have the updated version or that the new version was not appropriate to the data they use.
8.13 Some respondents participating in the telephone interviews noted non-use of the most recent update was not purely related to a lack of information about updates but was also sometimes due to personal preference. Indeed, a small number of telephone respondents noted a continued use of an older version of the SG Urban Rural Classification in order to retain consistency over time. For example, when there are changes in a new version that may impact on eligibility for funding, there may be a preference to continue working with the older version.
8.14 Another respondent noted problems with funding of a specific project because of changes to the definition of a settlement. They had funding for a rural project over a three year period but, due to reclassification of a specific settlement, adopting the updated version would mean their eligibility for funding became invalid part way through the funding process. Scottish Government officials assure us that any areas eligible for SG funding will remain so for the life of the programme unless stated otherwise in the relevant legislation. This issue highlights the importance of clarity when adopting the SG Urban Rural Classification in the design of funding mechanisms.
8.15 Just over one in two analysts responding to the online survey used each updated version either because they were automatically sent an update or because they worked with the online version. Just over one in ten requested an update; half of these worked within the Scottish Government (various Directorates).
Chart 8.4: Whether an update is sent automatically when a new version is published
Source: QA9; Analysts, n = 150
8.16 While most telephone respondents felt that ScotStat is a useful communication tool for information provision on the SG Urban Rural Classification, not all respondents had registered with ScotStat.
8.17 One Local Authority analyst felt that visibility of the SG Urban Rural Classification was limited and noted,
"If it appeared in more publications it would get picked up by other people more. The Urban Rural Classification is not a SIMD, not a 'turn to' variable that people are very familiar with."
8.18 Some telephone respondents felt it would be useful to have some kind of forum where information could be shared on how the classification can be used and explanations provided as to how it has been developed. For example, one analyst who had only been in post a short while, although aware of the classification, knew very little about it and would have liked to access a discussion forum where information could be shared, questions could be asked and examples of usage be provided.
8.19 One analyst who regularly used the classification and who often used this to provide information to policy colleagues, felt that information on the benefits of using this classification could be given to colleagues and would be beneficial in terms of helping to increase awareness and usage.
8.20 One respondent mentioned the possibility of roadshows to demonstrate ways in which the SG Urban Rural Classification can be used, although others felt that attendance at something like this could be very limited and a costly exercise for the SG that would bring about little real benefit in terms of increasing awareness and usage.
8.21 While the concept of a roadshow received little enthusiasm, some respondents noted that case studies of how the classification can be used could be useful. Firstly, to provide practical examples as to how the classification can be applied, and secondly, case studies can be used by analysts to demonstrate to colleagues how it works and how it can be used.
8.22 The concept of providing additional information was welcomed by policy respondents participating in the online survey. When asked whether they thought it would be helpful if analysts in their organisation provided them with more information on different classification systems that are available; of the 124 giving a response, 60% said yes it would; this included 31 of the 43 Local Authority policy makers who responded.
8.23 There was a preference from most telephone respondents for information to be provided via email, although there was also an expectation that the website would also provide a contact name and phone number.
8.24 One Local Authority analyst suggested that there was a need for the Scottish Government to engage further with Local Authorities to ensure they are optimising usage of the SG Urban Rural Classification.
- A majority of respondents claimed to have access to all the information / associated guidance they need; a majority also claimed that the information and associated guidance is clear and easy to understand. Those likely to be seeking any information assumed this would be available via the Scottish Government website.
- There are some indications of the need for information to be provided to existing and potential users. For example, nearly one in four respondents were unable to provide comment as to whether the information / associated guidance on the SG Urban Rural Classification is clear and easy to understand. There was also a lack of understanding that any areas eligible for funding will remain so for the life of the programme unless stated otherwise in the relevant legislation.
- A majority use each update of the classification when it becomes available, although just over 1 in 5 were unaware as to what version they were using and a quarter were not using the most recent update from August 2008. A small number of respondents had a preference to continue working with an older version of the SG Urban Rural Classification in order to maintain consistency over time. As use of the classification should depend on the purpose it may be correct to use an older version.
- While ScotStat is perceived to be an appropriate vehicle for information updates, (when prompted) not all telephone interview respondents were aware of ScotStat or had registered with it. As such, there were suggestions for additional ways in which information on the SG Urban Rural Classification can be disseminated to existing and potential users and these included:
- discussion forums
- leaflets outlining benefits
- case studies demonstrating how the SG Urban Rural Classification can be used
- information that analysts can pass onto other colleagues
- There is an expectation that information will be available via the Scottish Government website and that this will also include a contact name and telephone number for any queries.