Inclusive participation in rural Scotland: research report

Preliminary exploration report details the findings of research into barriers to participation facing lesser heard voices in the context of rural Scotland. Specifically, it focuses on the LGBTI community, disabled people, carers and ethnic minorities.

2 Highlights

What is this report?

The Scottish Government wanted evidence to inform policy making about barriers to participation in decision making in rural Scotland, with an emphasis on lesser heard from voices in these contexts. Decision making in this context is defined relatively loosely, including both participation in the rural parliament and participation in civic society in rural areas more generally. This work intends to support the Scottish ‘rural movement’.

What evidence was collected?

To write this report, we reviewed available demographic data, undertook a literature review of relevant research on rurality and barriers to participation for minority groups and conducted six stakeholder interviews with organisations who engage with this area in a professional capacity. Specifically, we focused on the experiences of the LGBTI community, ethnic and racial minorities, carers and disabled people.

Key Findings

There is a higher proportion of ethnic minorities and of the population who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or other in urban Scotland than in rural Scotland. However, there is no clear relationship between rurality and care provision nor the proportion of disabled people.

The review of evidence found that the available research on the experiences of rurality among the above communities of interest is relatively sparse. Available evidence indicates that these groups face considerable challenges in rural Scotland, including a lack of appropriate services, hostility, and a lack of social opportunities.

The qualitative research identified a range of barriers facing these groups. It was emphasised that, in rural contexts, barriers facing these groups tend to result from the coexistence of more general rural barriers – for example, sparsely populated communities and expensive travel options – with existing barriers facing the communities of interest. Thus, as one participant observed, the social stigma of being LGBTI may be enhanced by being in a location with very limited access to a supportive community, owing to the sparse populations of many rural areas. Minority stress, the high rural costs of living and decision making processes that didn’t take all needs into account were also noted as barriers. In terms of addressing these challenges, participants emphasised the importance of ensuring that the lived experiences of the communities of interest were incorporated into decision making, and emphasised that the onus should be on organisations with decision making power to ensure that these groups were represented.


It is recommended that Scottish Government and other relevant organisations explore options for supporting these communities of interest in a rural context. While there are many options to provide support, one approach may be to build on the existing work of the Scottish Rural Network and Equality Network, or alternatively to develop a specific rural equalities network.



Back to top