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Use and Understanding of the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification

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1 BACKGROUND

Introduction

1.1 The Scottish Government states, in The Government Economic Strategy (2007), that "delivering sustainable growth with opportunities for all is at the heart of the Government's Purpose" with three "golden rules" of growth - solidarity, cohesion and sustainability - that reflect the importance of social equity, regional balance and respect for the environment. It goes on to state that "Sustainable growth and prosperity need to be shared across Scotland. At present, differences in income, participation and growth across Scotland act as drag on our economic performance and potential. Increased participation and enhanced quality of employment across our cities, towns and rural areas will enhance our performance and deliver a more inclusive Scotland so that, no matter where people live, opportunities are open to them."

1.2 The impact of sectoral policies in areas such as transport, education and health can differ between urban and rural communities and the Scottish Government seeks to reflect this in mainstream policy development. Policy makers are required to consider how needs and delivery mechanisms differ between areas and adapt policies to meet local needs and circumstances.

Rural Scotland

1.3 The definition of rurality is an issue facing government, local authorities and other organisations, and a range of definitions have been adopted in different countries. The Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification was introduced in 2000; initially as the Scottish Household Survey Urban Rural Classification. It is updated every 2 years to use the most recent Small Area Population Estimates from the General Register Office for Scotland ( GROS).

1.4 The SG Urban Rural Classification is intended to provide a consistent way of defining urban and rural areas across Scotland and has been designed to be straightforward and easy to understand and apply. The SG Urban Rural Classification can be used to show the degree of urbanity, rurality and remoteness.

1.5 The SG core definition of rurality defines settlements with a population of 3,000 or less to be rural. It also classifies areas as remote based on drive time from settlements of 10,000 or more. The Classification has been developed based on two key criteria:

  • Settlement size, as defined by the General Register Office for Scotland ( GROS). A settlement is defined as a contiguous group of high density postcodes with a population of 500 or more.
  • Accessibility to key services, based on drive times to settlements with a population of 10,000 or over.

1.6 The SG Urban Rural Classification can be used to distinguish between accessible and remote areas, irrespective of rurality, and the classification contains 6 main categories (the 6-fold classification) shown in table 1.1.

1.7 There are a number of ways in which the classification is used. For example, sometimes it may be reduced to a 3-fold classification (remote rural, accessible rural and the rest of Scotland); and there may be other instances where only a 2-fold distinction (urban and rural) is used.

1.8 An additional version of the classification contains 8 categories (8-fold classification) that further splits remote (both towns and rural) into remote and very remote. Only the 6-fold and 8-fold classifications are described explicitly in the guidance.

1.9 Further details of this classification are provided in Chapter 3 which summarises the findings of desk research. Information on the SG Urban Rural Classification is available on the SG website 2.

Table 1.1 Scottish Government Urban Rural 6-fold Classification

Category

Definition

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.

A need for research

1.10 The Scottish Government wished to find out who is using the classification and what they are using it for. For example, the extent to which this classification is used as the basis for analysis, determining eligibility for funding, monitoring Single Outcome Agreements 3, etc.

1.11 As well as the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification, there are a number of other different geographic classifications available, some of which incorporate a rurality dimension. The SG wanted to ascertain the importance accorded to the SG Urban Rural Classification relative to other classifications, and find out whether the classification is understood by researchers, analysts, policy makers and those who influence policy.

1.12 The SG commissioned research that aimed to provide a better understanding of the extent and purpose to which geographic classifications are currently being used; both the SG Urban Rural Classification and other classifications from Scotland and the rest of the UK; identify any perceived issues with their use and gather suggestions for development of the SG Urban Rural Classification. The findings of this research will be used to consider how best to support use of the classification.

1.13 The objectives of this project were to:

  • Investigate the level of use and understanding of the classification among analysts in the SG and also in local government, agencies, academia and private bodies.
  • Investigate the level of use and understanding of the classification among policy makers in the SG and local government and those who influence policy making in agencies, academia and private bodies.