Rural Scotland: key facts 2018

Biennial compendium publication comparing and contrasting statistics on key policy topics such as People and Communities, Services and Lifestyle, Economy and Enterprise broken down by Remote Rural, Accessible Rural and the Rest of Scotland.

This document is part of a collection


Rural Scotland Key Facts compares and contrasts circumstances in remote and accessible rural areas to the rest of Scotland. The Scottish Government acknowledges that key areas of policy such as the economy, transport, education and health can have a particular impact on rural communities, and seeks to reflect this in mainstream policy development.

The purpose of this booklet is to summarise key facts related to the main policy areas and to inform mainstreaming of rural policies. Improving the evidence base will assist us in understanding the issues affecting rural Scotland.

Rural Scotland Key Facts is a compendium publication and presents a collation of statistics from a range of surveys and administrative databases. A full list of these can be found in the Sources section at the back of this booklet. This booklet presents a snapshot of the latest statistics available at the time of publication.

The publication contains results from several statistical surveys, which are based on samples of households or the population. As such, small differences in results between years or between the geographic areas may not be statistically significant.

Summary of the key messages

Rural Scotland is Important

Rural Scotland accounts for 98% of the land mass of Scotland and 17% of the population are resident there. Over recent years, the population of rural Scotland has continued to grow at a faster rate than the rest of Scotland, driven by the increase in accessible rural areas, mainly due to inward migration.

Rural Scotland is a ‘Very Good’ Place to Live

A higher proportion of residents of rural Scotland, compared to the rest of Scotland, rate their neighbourhood as a ‘very good’ place to live. Fewer residents experience neighbourhood problems (e.g. litter, graffiti) and more residents feel they belong to their immediate neighbourhood. In addition, more people volunteer in the community. Crime is less prevalent than in the rest of Scotland and more people feel ‘very safe’ when home alone at night.

Rural Scotland Faces Certain Challenges

In terms of travel and access to services, more people in rural areas are outwith a reasonable drive time to key services (e.g. GPs and shops) compared to the rest of Scotland and fewer people are satisfied with the quality of the public transport services delivered. Residents of rural Scotland spend more a month on fuel for cars, with around half of residents reporting to spend over £100 a month in 2017, compared to 38% in the rest of Scotland.

The rates of emergency and cancer admissions to hospital are lower in rural Scotland, however this may be due to an increased difficulty in accessing hospitals. A lower proportion of people living in rural Scotland, compared to the rest of Scotland, state that the nearest hospital outpatients department is either very or fairly convenient.

The proportion of households in remote rural areas which are classed as extreme fuel poor (households which spend more than 20% of its income on household fuel) is around four times the proportion in the rest of Scotland and double the proportion in accessible rural areas.

Rural Scotland – A Complex Picture

With regards to the economy and jobs, more residents of rural Scotland are in work with employment rates higher than in the rest of Scotland. Although unemployment rates are the same across all areas of Scotland at 4%. Residence-based estimates of pay indicate that rates are highest for accessible rural areas. More residents in rural Scotland are self-employed and homeworking is more prevalent.

With respect to housing, the average property is more expensive in rural Scotland. More properties are houses or bungalows and there is a much smaller proportion of flats than in the rest of Scotland. In addition, a higher prevalence of second home ownership, in accessible rural areas in particular, also has an effect on residents’ abilities to access housing.

Use made of the statistics

This publication is widely used to paint a picture of life in rural Scotland and to understand the differences from the rest of Scotland in terms of issues such as demographics, lifestyle, services and the economy.

The statistics presented in Rural Scotland Key Facts are used within the Scottish Government for policy development and monitoring.

A user consultation exercise on the Rural Scotland Key Facts was run from 24th of May to 22nd June 2018, the aim of which was to gather information on users’ needs and wants from the publication and to seek suggestions for new content.

A summary of the findings can be accessed here:

Definition of Rural Scotland

Rural Scotland is defined as settlements with a population of less than 3,000. A settlement is defined to be a group of high density postcodes whose combined population rounds to 500 people or more. They are separated by low density postcodes. A postcode is high density if at least one of the following applies:

  • it has more than 2.1 residential addresses per hectare;
  • it has more than 0.1 non-residential addresses per hectare; or
  • the estimate of the population per hectare exceeds five people.

By analysing drive times to larger settlements we can divide rural Scotland into:

Accessible rural: those with a less than 30 minute drive time to the nearest settlement with a population of 10,000 or more.

Remote rural: those with a greater than 30 minute drive time to the nearest settlement with a population of 10,000 or more.

These definitions form part of the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification. The map shows the full classification.

A high resolution version of the map can be found here:

This booklet combines the first four categories of the 6-fold classification into the Rest of Scotland figures. The rest of Scotland therefore includes large urban areas, other urban areas, accessible small towns and remote small towns.

The full Scottish Government Urban Rural classification breakdown can be accessed here:

Map of Rural Scotland

Map of Rural Scotland


Neil Henderson:

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