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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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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 by the following six categories:

(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 a 30 minute drive time 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 Areas – Areas with a population of less than 3,000 people, and within a 30 minute drive time of a Settlement of 10,000 or more.

(6) Remote Rural Areas - Areas with a population of less than 3,000 people, and with a drive time of over 30 minutes to a Settlement of 10,000 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 contains two additional 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:

(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 a 30 minute drive time 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 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 Areas - Areas with a population of less than 3,000 people, and within a drive time of 30 minutes to a Settlement of 10,000 or more.

(7) Remote Rural Areas - Areas with a population 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 Areas - Areas with a population of less than 3,000 people, and with a drive time of over 60 minutes to a Settlement of 10,000 or more.

Note that 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.

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 make up the rest of Scotland (urban areas and small towns).

(1) Rest of Scotland – (1) Large Urban Areas, (2) Other Urban Areas, (3) Accessible Small Towns, and (4) Remote Small Towns.

(2) Rural Scotland – (5) Accessible Rural and (6) Remote Rural Areas.

Can the classification distinguish between Accessible and Remote Areas?

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 6-fold classification.

(1) Accessible – (1) Large Urban Areas, (2) Other Urban Areas, (3) Accessible Small Towns, and (5) Accessible Rural.

(2) Remote – (4) Remote Small Towns and (6) Remote Rural Areas.

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 National Records of Scotland (NRS) and accessibility based on drive time analysis to differentiate between accessible and remote areas in Scotland. The Settlement and accessibility data are then combined to create a Scotland-wide classification.

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

NRS Small Area Population Estimates (SAPE) together with information from the Royal Mail Postcode Address File (PAF) were used to classify 2010 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. For more details on the methodology used to create Settlements and their population estimates, please see the NRS Website[1].

Population thresholds used to distinguish between urban and rural areas (i.e. 125,000, 10,000 and 3,000) are used to classify the Settlements dataset into:

(1) Large Urban Areas (populations of 125,000 or more),

(2) Other Urban Areas (populations between 10,000 and 125,000),

(3) Small Towns (populations between 3,000 and 10,000), or

(4) Rural Areas (populations less than 3,000).

NRS recommend users exercise caution when comparing the Settlements 2010 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 estimated around Settlements classed as ‘Large Urban Areas’ and ‘Other Urban Areas’ (populations 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 out with the 30 minute drive time from a Settlement of 10,000 people or more.

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

The Scottish Government hold the current and previous versions of the classification, as listed below.  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. 

•  2011-2012 Scottish Government Urban/Rural Classification, 6-fold and 8-fold

•  2009-2010 Scottish Government Urban/Rural Classification, 6-fold and 8-fold

•  2007-2008 Scottish Government Urban/Rural Classification, 6-fold and 8-fold

•  2005-2006 Scottish Executive Urban/Rural Classification, 6-fold and 8-fold

•  2003-2004 Scottish Executive Urban/Rural Classification, 6-fold and 8-fold

•  2001 Scottish Household Survey Urban/Rural Classification, 6-fold

The classification was previously called the Scottish Household Survey (SHS) 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.

Can the classification be applied to other geographies?

The Scottish Government’s Urban/Rural Classification can be used to classify other geographies, however, this is only recommended where the geography in question has units which are relatively small in area.  Geographies with larger units will straddle the urban/rural boundaries significantly, resulting in unacceptable accuracy.  With each release of the Urban/Rural Classification, the Scottish Government produces look-up tables for postcodes, census output areas and data zones, with the data zone being the largest areal unit for which linking to the classification is recommended.

Where larger areas are concerned (e.g. Local Authorities or Wards), it is more meaningful to show the proportion of the population living in each of the six categories.  Applying the classification rigidly to these geographies would result in the detail of the classification being lost in aggregation, and likely result in Scotland appearing more urban than it is in reality.

Will the link between postcodes and the classification be maintained?

NRS intend to add the Scottish Government Urban/Rural Classification 2011-2012 to the standard NRS Postcode Index.

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.  For more information, please see www.sns.gov.uk.  Further, the 2001 Census includes information about settlements (http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/census/censushm/scotcen2/reports-and-data/scotcen8.html).

Is there a UK-wide Urban/Rural classification?

Different urban/rural definitions are required as the nature of rurality is different in each country.  Separate definitions in Scotland and Northern Ireland have been in use for a number of years. A definition for England and Wales was introduced in 2004, for more information see http://www.defra.gov.uk/evidence/statistics/rural/rural-definition.htm.

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

The Scottish Government (SG) will use the classification to improve the rural evidence base.  Issues such as transport, education and health can have a particular impact on rural communities and SG seeks to reflect this in mainstream policy development. This classification aids in developing our understanding of the issues facing urban, rural and remote Scotland.  To date, the classification has been widely used, and recent publications include:

Speak up for Rural Scotland: Supporting briefing papers on demography, economy and access to services were produced using the Urban Rural Classification.

Scotland's People: Scottish Household Survey Annual Report: A National Statistics publication for Scotland, providing reliable and up-to-date information on the composition, characteristics and behaviour of Scottish households and adults.

Rural Scotland Key Facts 2011: People and Communities, Services and Lifestyle, Economy and Enterprise: Summary of key facts related to rural Scotland. Compares remote rural, accessible rural and the rest of Scotland.

Local Area Labour Markets in Scotland: Statistics from the Annual Population Survey 2011: Summary publication of results from the Annual Population Survey 2011, presenting analysis on the labour market, education and training. Results are provided for Scotland and local authority areas in Scotland.

Use and Understanding of the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification: A study commissioned by the Scottish Government in order to gather information on the extent to which this classification is used, how it is used and by whom.

Population Estimates by Urban Rural Classification: NRS annual mid-year population estimates for urban and rural areas of Scotland for each year from 2001 onwards.

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

 

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