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Use and Understanding of the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification



9.1 It is important to classify Scotland into urban and rural areas because the context for policy making is different when addressing urban and rural areas. There are further differences within both urban and rural areas. They have different needs and characteristics.

9.2 During the course of the desk research a wide range of urban rural classification systems were identified throughout the UK and Scotland. Each classification tends to use a combination of location (geography) including travel time, and / or settlement size and type, and / or socio-economic criteria.

9.3 The primary research (both the questionnaire and the interviews) presents a generally positive picture of use and understanding of the SG urban rural classification, though it should be borne in mind that the survey sample was largely drawn from SG distribution lists which included those with a rural interest, those who had registered with ScotStat and those who already received information on the SG Urban Rural Classification.

9.4 Respondents have access to a number of classifications, and each tends to be selected according to specific requirements. For the individuals who do make a distinction between urban and rural in their work, the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification is widely used. There was a high level of recognition among respondents. The use of this is usually complemented by the use of other geographic classifications such as the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation ( SIMD) to create further layers of analysis. Data from the online survey shows that there is often a need for multi dimensional levels of analysis, and 45% of online respondents used both the SG Urban Rural Classification and another classification, primarily SIMD.

9.5 Available classifications tend to be used infrequently, and data from the online survey suggests that usage levels are likely to remain at a similar level. A majority of respondents (57%) were aware of future work involving an urban rural distinction. Responses from those claiming they will not use the SG Urban Rural Classification in the future show that this is because the classification is not perceived to be needed, rather than because of reservations about the classification itself.

9.6 Users of the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification appear to be largely satisfied with the way this has been developed and how it can be used in their work. The SG Urban Rural Classification and SIMD are widely used but neither is designed to meet all user requirements; as a result they are not considered to be appropriate in all circumstances and two key Scottish organisations - Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise - have been involved in the development of classifications to meet their own purposes.

9.7 Data from the online survey shows a high degree of satisfaction with the availability, clarity and comprehensiveness of the information and guidance available on the SG Urban Rural Classification.

9.8 There is a need to consider how best to effectively disseminate information on the SG Urban Rural Classification and how this can be applied. Guidance addressing what the SG Urban Rural Classification can and cannot be used for, as well as the provision of case studies with practical examples could be a welcome means of providing further information to existing and potential users. Where the classification is used to establish eligibility for funding there is a need to clarify that any areas eligible for funding will remain so for the life of the programme unless stated otherwise in the relevant legislation. While ScotStat is perceived to be an appropriate vehicle for information updates, not all telephone interview respondents were aware of ScotStat.

9.9 Users, particularly policy makers in central and local government, have a responsibility to ensure that they understand how the classification is, and should be, used in legislation, the designing of programmes and performance monitoring.

Messages from the research: suggestions for promoting the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification in the future

  • As well as providing information on the SG website, provide a named individual and telephone number as a single point of contact for queries that cannot be answered on the FAQ section of the website.
  • Consider a better system for informing all existing and potential users of the SG Urban Rural Classification. This will ensure that information in relation to the SG Urban Rural Classification is provided to all relevant individuals and help to maintain and increase awareness and usage of the classification.
  • Examine ways in which the SG Urban Rural Classification can be used alongside other forms of classification and demonstrate how these can be used to complement each other for analysis.
  • Provide additional information in the form of case histories and practical examples to demonstrate ways in which the SG Urban Rural Classification can be applied. This is particularly important for users and potential users who are not statisticians and / or who may be infrequent users.