Rural Scotland Data Dashboard: Overview

This report accompanies the Rural Scotland Data Dashboard which presents data on a range of issues that impact rural Scotland. The report synthesises the data included in the dashboard into a broader picture of successes, challenges and trends in rural Scotland.


Why was the research needed?

The Scottish Government committed to publishing a Rural Delivery Plan showing how it is delivering for rural Scotland, by 2026. The Rural Scotland Data Dashboard was produced as a compilation of available data evidence to inform the development of the Rural Delivery Plan.

What did we do?

We compiled published data for Rural Scotland into an easy to understand dashboard. The Rural Scotland Data Dashboard presents data on a range of issues that impact people living and working in rural Scotland. It has eight sections: Economic development; Transport; Housing; Social justice; Population; Digital connectivity; Education and skills; and Health and social care.

The Scottish Islands Data Dashboard has published separately giving a detailed picture of evidence on the Scottish Islands.

What did we learn?

Rural Scotland varies. Compiling the data in the dashboard gives a broader picture of successes and challenges in rural and island Scotland.


The dashboard provides evidence of successes in rural Scotland, for example:

  • Employment rates are mostly higher in rural areas, and people of working age are most economically active in islands and remote rural areas;
  • Confidence in the economic outlook for Scotland has increased amongst rural businesses, who are taking action to help Scotland meet net zero;
  • Primary school pupils in accessible rural areas show slightly higher rates of achievement in numeracy than those in urban areas;
  • Across Scotland, the highest number of secondary school leavers with a positive destination came from accessible rural and remote rural areas;
  • Primary and secondary school pupils in rural and remote rural areas have healthier diets than those in urban areas, and perceptions of general health among school pupils are slightly higher in accessible rural areas;
  • Life expectancy is higher in rural Scotland than in urban areas;
  • Satisfaction with local health services is relatively high across rural and remote rural areas, and GP to patient ratio is higher in rural Scotland;
  • The experiences of both those receiving care and unpaid carers are better in remote rural areas than elsewhere in Scotland.


The dashboard also provides evidence of challenges in rural Scotland, in line with long-term, persistent issues, for example:

  • Relative poverty rates are increasing in rural areas, but remain slightly lower than those in urban areas;
  • Satisfaction with public services is lower in rural areas;
  • House prices have risen across rural Scotland since 2019, particularly in accessible rural areas;
  • Almost all homes in Scotland can get some broadband access, however the speed and quality is significantly lower in some rural areas;
  • Remote rural areas, including islands, have a significantly higher percentage of empty dwellings and second homes than other areas of Scotland;
  • Rural properties are, on average, less energy efficient than urban ones, and rates of fuel poverty are estimated to be particularly high on islands;
  • Parents and carers in rural areas are less likely to use all of their 1,140 funded hours, and more likely to experience difficulties affording childcare;
  • There is a higher reliance on cars in rural areas, and lower use of public transport, with longer journey times to key services;
  • Satisfaction among island residents with mainland and inter-island ferry services is relatively low, particularly in terms of reliability and fares.

Next steps

The Scottish Government will publish a Rural Delivery Plan by 2026.



Back to top