Poverty in rural Scotland: evidence review

This report reviews current evidence and research on rural poverty in Scotland

1. Executive summary

This report reviews current evidence and research on rural poverty in Scotland. The Scottish Government's two-fold Urban-Rural classification defines rural areas as settlements of less than 3,000 people.

The main findings are listed below:

  • Income-based measures of poverty have found that 15% of people living in rural Scotland (or 170,000 people) are in relative poverty, compared to 20% (850,000) of urban residents. What is more, fewer people living in rural Scotland are living in the most deprived areas in Scotland.
  • Child poverty is also lower in rural Scotland. 19% of children living in rural areas are living in relative poverty, compared to 26% of children living in urban areas.
  • Fewer children in rural areas are living in families with limited resources, compared to children in urban areas. This is higher in remote rural areas than in accessible rural areas. There are also fewer children registered for free school meals within rural areas.
  • The economic activity rate (people employed or looking for work), employment rate and the rate of working-age population that are either employed, in education or training, are all higher in rural areas than in the rest of Scotland.
  • The median hourly rate of pay is highest, for both males (£16.19) and females (£16.27), in accessible rural areas but is lowest, however, in remote rural areas (£14.14 for males and £14.29 for females). Similarly, annual pay is lowest for females living in remote rural areas (£27,231) and highest for males living in accessible rural areas (£35,556).
  • Part-time hours can contribute to in-work poverty and the highest rate of part-time workers can be found in remote rural areas (28%). Women are considerably more likely than men to work part-time in all areas of Scotland, however, the highest rate is again in remote rural Scotland (46%).
  • It is estimated that the cost of living is considerably higher in rural Scotland than it is in urban Scotland. Research has found that the cost of food, clothing, household goods, housing, transport and household fuel bills are higher in rural areas. Households in rural Scotland, therefore, require a higher income to attain the same minimum living standard as those living in urban areas.
  • It is estimated that a third of households in remote rural Scotland are in extreme fuel poverty, compared to 11% of households in the rest of Scotland. Rural households are more at risk of fuel poverty as they are more likely to be dependent on alternative, and more expensive fuel types, such as electric storage heating and oil powered-heating; and dwellings tend to be larger and, thus, more expensive to heat in rural areas.

The report concludes by suggesting that, although rates of poverty are lower in rural Scotland, rural poverty may not be easily identifiable within income and deprivation measures as they do not take into account the higher cost of living. Indeed, the evidence suggests that many rural households are at risk of poverty due to their high expenditure on travel and fuel.


Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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