Information

Rural Scotland Key Facts 2021

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


People and Communities

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Demographics

Table 1: Population and land share by 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2011 & 2019
2011 2019 % change 2011-2019 % of 2019 population % of land area
Remote Rural 315,945 316,166 0.1% 6% 70%
Accessible Rural 573,407 616,536 8% 11% 28%
Rest of Scotland 4,410,548 4,530,598 3% 83% 2%
Total 5,299,900 5,463,300 3% 100% 100%

Source: Mid-year small area population estimates, National Records of Scotland (Using Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016)

Table 1 shows the population figures from the census in 2011 as well as the population estimate for 2019, the most recently available year. Over 5.46 million people live in Scotland, with over 930,000 of them living in rural areas. Rural Scotland accounts for 17% of the total population in Scotland (6% in remote rural and 11% in accessible rural) and has consistently done so since 2011.

The population has increased in all areas of Scotland between 2011 and 2019, but only very slightly in remote rural areas where the increase was 0.1% or 221 people. The greatest increase in population has been in accessible rural areas, with a 8% increase between 2011 and 2019, compared to an increase of 3% in the rest of Scotland.

In contrast to the population distribution, rural Scotland accounts for 98% of the land mass in Scotland (70% in remote rural and 28% in accessible rural). This reflects the dispersed nature of the population in rural areas.

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Figure 1: Age distribution of population by 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2019
vertical bar chart showing the percentage of the population in the age groups 0 to 15, 16 to 44, 45 to 64, and 65 and over separately for remote rural areas, accessible rural areas and the rest of Scotland

Source: Mid-year small area population estimates, National Records of Scotland (Using the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016)

Figure 1 shows that the age distribution of rural areas compared to the rest of Scotland is different for people older than 15, the age at when children can leave school. Rural areas have a lower proportion of the population in the age range 16 to 44 but a higher proportion of people aged 45 and over. This is particularly true for the age range of 65 and over in remote rural areas. Indicating that when people get to retirement age they are more likely to live in rural areas.

Evidence suggests that factors influencing migration decisions of young people moving out of rural areas could be higher education and employment opportunities, housing and public transport availability.

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Table 2: Internal population change and migration by 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2019
Remote Rural Accessible Rural Rest of Scotland
Births 2,221 5,423 42,219
Births per 1,000 population 7 9 9
Deaths 3,574 5,776 48,758
Deaths per 1,000 population 11 9 11
Migration1 (2018-19)
In-migration 17,120 39,960 108,020
Out-migration 15,870 32,110 86,880
Net Migration 1,250 7,850 21,140
Net Migration as % of population 0.4% 1.3% 0.5%

Source: Migration Statistics, National Records of Scotland (Using Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016)

Notes:

1. Migration flows are rounded to ten nearest 10.

Table 2 shows that the birth rate (per 1,000 population) was lower that the death rate in remote rural areas and the rest of Scotland in 2019. The birth and death rates were almost the same in accessible rural areas but the death rate was marginally higher.

The birth rate was lowest in remote rural areas (seven per 1,000 population) compared to nine per 1,000 in both accessible rural areas and the rest of Scotland.

The rate of deaths was lowest in accessible rural areas (nine per 1,000 population). The death rate was the same in remote rural areas and the rest of Scotland (11 per 1,000 population).

Table 2 also shows positive net migration into all three areas of Scotland over the year 2018-19, i.e. the number of in-migrants was greater than the number of out-migrants. The net migration rate was low in all areas of Scotland but was highest in accessible rural areas, equivalent to 1.3% of the population. The lowest net migration rate was in the remote rural areas, equivalent to 0.4% of the population.

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Table 3: Country of birth by 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2019
Remote Rural Accessible Rural Rest of Scotland
Scotland 73% 77% 80%
Rest of UK 22% 17% 10%
Rest of World 5% 5% 10%
European Union 3% 3% 5%
non-European Union 2% 3% 5%
Total 100% 100% 100%

Source: Annual Population Survey, January to December 2019, ONS (Using Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016)

Table 3 shows the proportions of Scotland’s current population that were born in Scotland, in the rest of the United Kingdom and in the rest of the world, which is further split into European Union and non-European Union countries. The area with highest proportion of residents who were born in the UK but outside of Scotland is remote rural areas at 22%. The rate for accessible rural areas and the rest of Scotland were 17% and 10% respectively.

The area with the highest proportion of residents that were born outside the UK is the rest of Scotland (10%). In both remote rural and accessible rural areas, 5% of residents were born outside of the UK. In all areas of Scotland, there is a roughly equal split of people who were born outside of the UK born who were born in European Union countries and non-European Union countries.

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Households

Table 4: Household type 1 by 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2019
Remote Rural Accessible Rural Rest of Scotland
Single adult 17% 15% 21%
Small adult 16% 20% 20%
Single parent2 2% 3% 5%
Small family 11% 15% 13%
Large family 7% 6% 5%
Large adult 8% 8% 9%
Older smaller 20% 19% 13%
Single pensioner 19% 14% 14%
Total 100% 100% 100%
Base 1,070 1,160 8,350

Source: Scottish Household Survey 2019 (Using Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016)

Notes:

1. A description of all household types can be found under Definitions in the Notes section at the end of this publication.

2. It should be noted that the definition of a single parent does not make any distinction between situations where a child has regular contact and/or partly resides with their other parent and a child who solely resides with their other parent and a child who solely resides with and is cared for by one parent.

Table 4 shows that, relative to the rest of Scotland, remote and accessible rural Scotland have lower percentages of single adult households.

Remote rural areas have the highest percentage of ‘large family’ households, while accessible rural areas have the highest percentage of ‘small family’ households. A ‘small family’ household contains two adults of any age and one or two children while a ‘large family’ household contains two adults of any age and three or more children or three adults of any age and one or more children.

Rural Scotland as a whole has a higher percentage of ‘older smaller’ households, where one or both adults are of pensionable age. In addition, remote rural areas have a higher proportion of single pensioner households (‘single older’) compared to accessible rural areas and the rest of Scotland.

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Neighbourhood and Community

Figure 2: Rating of neighbourhood as a place to live by 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2019
horizontal stacked bar chart showing the percentage of people who rate their neighbourhood as a place to live as very good, fairly good, fairly poor or very poor separately for remote rural areas, accessible rural areas and the rest of Scotland

Source: Scottish Household Survey 2019 (Using Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016)

Figure 2 shows that 97% of residents in rural areas rate their neighbourhood as a ‘very good’ or ‘fairly good’ place to live. This compares to 94% in the rest of Scotland.

People living in remote rural areas are more likely to describe their neighbourhood as a ‘very good’ place to live (80%), compared to accessible rural areas (70%) and the rest of Scotland (54%).

Within the Communities National Outcome of the National Performance Framework there is a National Indicator called Perception of Local Area, which shows the proportion of adults who rate their neighbourhood as a very good place to live.

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Figure 3: Percentage of people who feel they belong to their immediate neighbourhood by 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2019
horizontal stacked bar chart showing the percentage of people who feel they belong to their immediate neighbourhood very strongly, fairly strongly, not very strongly, not at all strongly or don't know separately for remote rural areas, accessible rural areas and the rest of Scotland

Source: Scottish Household Survey 2019 (Using Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016)

A higher proportion of people who live in remote rural areas either feel ‘very strongly’ that they belong to their immediate neighbourhood than either people in accessible rural areas or the rest of Scotland. When the categories ‘very strongly’ and ‘fairly strongly’ are combined, remote rural areas still show a higher proportion than accessible rural areas or the rest of Scotland but the gap is not as large.

As a result, the proportion of people living in the rest of Scotland and accessible rural areas who either feel ‘not very strongly’ or ‘not at all strongly’ that they belong to their immediate neighbourhood are similar and higher than in remote rural areas. When the ‘not at all strongly’ category is considered on its own, the proportion of people who feel this way is almost the same across all areas of Scotland, at 4% for both remote rural and accessible rural areas, compared to 6% for the rest of Scotland.

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Table 5: Percentage of people who think they can influence decisions affecting their local area by 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2019
Remote Rural Accessible Rural Rest of Scotland
Agree 22% 21% 17%
Neither agree nor disagree 16% 18% 22%
Disagree 53% 55% 52%
No opinion 10% 6% 9%
Total 100% 100% 100%
Base 1,020 1,050 7,710

Source: Scottish Household Survey 2019 (Using Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016)

Table 5 shows that a higher proportion of people living in rural areas think they can influence decisions affecting their local area compared to the rest of Scotland. The proportion is just higher for remote rural areas compared to accessible rural areas at 22% and 21% respectively. This does not imply that people living in remote areas do actually have more influence over decisions that affect their local areas but they believe that they do.

In all areas of Scotland, just over half of people do not think they can influence decisions that affect their local area. The highest proportion is in accessible rural areas (55%).

It should be noted that the proportion of people with no opinion regarding this question is relatively high as well. In remote rural areas, 10% had no opinion and 9% had no opinion in the rest of Scotland.

Within the Human Rights National Outcome of the National Performance Framework there is a National Indicator called Influence Over Local Decisions, which shows the proportion of respondents who agree with the statement ‘I can influence decisions affecting my local area’.

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Table 6: Experience of neighbourhood problems 1 by 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2019
Remote Rural Accessible Rural Rest of Scotland
Vandalism, graffiti or other deliberate damage to property 1% 2% 7%
Groups or individuals intimidating or harassing others 2% 2% 4%
Seeing drug misuse or dealing 3% 3% 9%
Rowdy behaviour e.g. drunkenness, hooliganism or loutish behaviour 3% 4% 12%
Noisy neighbours or regular loud parties 3% 5% 11%
Neighbour disputes 5% 7% 6%
Rubbish or litter lying around 18% 23% 33%
Abandoned or burnt out vehicles 2% 2% 2%
Animal nuisance such as noise or dog fouling 24% 30% 38%
None 60% 52% 43%
Base 1,020 1,050 7,710

Source: Scottish Household Survey 2019 (Using Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016)

Notes: 1. Respondents can choose more than one option.

Table 6 shows that, for almost all categories, a lower percentage of people in rural Scotland have experienced neighbourhood problems compared to the rest of Scotland. The proportion is also generally lower in remote rural areas compared to accessible rural areas. The one exception is for neighbour disputes where accessible rural areas have the highest proportion at 7%. This compares to 6% in the rest of Scotland and 5% in remote rural areas.

For all areas of Scotland, the neighbourhood problem that is most reported is animal nuisance, such as noise or dog fouling. In the rest of Scotland 38% of people have experienced it. In accessible rural areas, 30% have experienced problems with animal nuisance and it is lowest in remote rural areas at 24%.

In remote rural areas, 60% of people have experienced none of the neighbourhood problems listed. This drops to 52% in accessible rural areas and then further to 43% in the rest of Scotland.

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Table 7: Perceptions of safety when at home alone at night by 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2019
Remote Rural Accessible Rural Rest of Scotland
Very safe 95% 88% 83%
Fairly safe 3% 10% 14%
A bit unsafe 1% 1% 2%
Very unsafe 0% 0% 1%
Don't know - 0% 0%
Total 100% 100% 100%
Base 1,020 1,050 7,710

Source: Scottish Household Survey 2019 (Using Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016)

Table 7 shows that 95% of people in remote rural areas feel ‘very safe’ when at home alone at night. This compares to 88% in accessible rural areas and 83% in the rest of Scotland. When the two categories ‘very safe’ and ‘fairly safe’ are combined they account for almost all people in all areas of Scotland.

Looking at people who felt ‘very unsafe’ when at home alone at night, 1% of people in the rest of Scotland feel this way. This compares to less than 0.5% in both remote rural and accessible rural areas.

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Table 8: Crime victimisation and perception of change in crimes rates over previous two years by 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2018-19
Remote Rural Accessible Rural Rest of Scotland
Percentage of adults who had been the victims of crime in the last 12 months 4% 9% 13%
Base 370 620 4,560
Proportion of adults who perceived that: Crime rate has increased over last 2 years 18% 19% 22%
Crime rate has stayed the same over last 2 years 75% 71% 63%
Crime rate has decreased over last 2 years 3% 5% 9%
Don't know 4% 4% 5%
Total 100% 100% 100%
Base 330 560 3,940

Source: Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2018-19 (Using Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2013-2014)

The crime victimisation rates in rural areas are lower than in the rest of Scotland. Remote rural areas have the lowest victimisation rates at 4%. This rises to 9% in accessible rural areas and then to 13% in the rest of Scotland. This may provide an explanation as to why residents of rural Scotland are more likely to feel safe alone in their home at night (as shown in Table 7).

In terms of perception of changes in crime rates, the majority of people across all areas of Scotland state they feel crime rates have remained the same over the last two years. The highest proportion is in remote rural areas (75%). Of those who feel there has been a change in the crime rate over the two previous years, more feel that crime rates have increased as opposed to decreased, with the highest proportion in the rest of Scotland (22%). However, this is also true of the proportion of people who feel crime has decreased (9%).

Within the Communities National Outcome of the National Performance Framework, there are two National Indicator relating to this Indicator. Crime Victimisation, which shows the proportion of adults in Scotland who have been the victim of one or more crimes in the past year. As well as Perceptions of Local Crime Rate, which shows the proportion of people who have a positive perception of the general crime rate in their local area.

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Table 9: Whether respondent gave their time to help as an organiser/volunteer in the past 12 months by age and 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2019
Remote Rural Accessible Rural Rest of Scotland
16 to 64 Yes 34% 35% 25%
No 66% 65% 75%
Total 100% 100% 100%
Base 590 670 5,340
65 and over Yes 30% 26% 22%
No 70% 74% 78%
Total 100% 100% 100%
Base 420 380 2,380
All adults Yes 33% 32% 25%
No 67% 68% 75%
Total 100% 100% 100%
Base 1,020 1,050 7,710

Source: Scottish Household Survey 2019 (Using Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016)

In rural Scotland, a higher proportion of people give up their time to help as an organiser or a volunteer than in the rest of Scotland. Around a third of people in rural Scotland give up time to work as a volunteer/organiser compared to a quarter in the rest of Scotland.

This difference is more apparent for people aged 16 to 64, with 34% of this age group in remote rural areas and 35% in accessible rural areas giving up time to work as a volunteer/organiser, compared to 25% in the rest of Scotland.

The proportion of people who give up their time to help as an organiser or a volunteer, while still higher in rural areas, is lower across all areas for people aged 65 and over compared to the proportion for all adults.

Table 10: Number of assets, number of community groups, area and percentage of land area in community ownership by 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2019
Remote Rural Accessible Rural Rest of Scotland
Assets1 374 98 118
Groups2 242 77 99
Area3 (ha) 187,702 2,568 1,020

Source: Community Ownership in Scotland 2019 (Using Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016)

Notes:

1. Assets are assigned an Urban Rural category according to the address/location of the asset. Assets with large areas may straddle multiple Urban Rural categories.

2. Community groups can own multiple assets and may own assets in more than one Urban Rural category.

3. For some assets their area is recorded as zero, mainly buildings, and in other cases no area figures are available.

Table 10 shows that in while around 60% of the assets in community ownership and the groups that own the assets are in remote rural areas 98% of the area in community ownership is in remote rural Scotland. This reflects that the majority of area in community ownership is accounted for by a small number of estates that are located in remote rural areas, and in most case have been in community ownership for a long period of time.

There are more assets and community groups based in the rest of Scotland compared to accessible rural areas, while the area in community ownership is smaller in the rest of Scotland. Communities groups, particularly in the rest of Scotland, are now acquiring assets that have a positive impact on the community but do not necessarily cover large areas of land.

Within the Communities National Outcome of the National Performance Framework there is a National Indicator called Community Ownership, which measures the extent of community ownership in Scotland.

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Physical Environment

Table 11: Frequency of visits 1 made to the outdoors 2 by 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2019
Remote Rural Accessible Rural Rest of Scotland
Once or more times a week 66% 63% 54%
At least once a month 11% 15% 19%
At least once a year 8% 11% 16%
Not at all 16% 12% 11%
Total 100% 100% 100%
Base 1,020 1,050 7,710

Source: Scottish Household Survey 2019 (Using Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016)

Notes:

1. Visits are defined as trips that could either have been from home or while away from home on holiday, provided the holiday was in Scotland. They might include everyday activities like walking the dog as well as other activities like mountain biking or kayaking.

2. The outdoors is defined as open spaces in the countryside as well as in towns and cities such as woodland, parks, farmland, paths, beaches etc.

There are similar proportions of people from rural areas who visit the outdoors one or more times a week, 66% in remote rural areas and 63% in accessible rural areas. The proportion drops to 54% for the rest of Scotland.

Looking at the proportion of people who do not visit the outdoors at all, the proportion is also highest in remote rural areas at 16%. This compares to 12% in accessible rural areas and the proportion is lowest in the rest of Scotland at 11%.

Within the Environment National Outcome of the National Performance Framework there is a National Indicator called Visits to the Outdoors, which measures the proportion of adults making one or more visits to the outdoors per week.

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Table 12: Walking distance to nearest green or blue space 1,2 by 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2019
Remote Rural Accessible Rural Rest of Scotland
In 5 minutes 71% 75% 64%
6-10 minutes 9% 10% 22%
Within an 11-20 minute walk 4% 3% 9%
Within a 21-30 minute walk 3% 3% 2%
More than a 30 minute walk away 11% 7% 2%
Don't know 2% 2% 2%
Total 100% 100% 100%
Base 1,020 1,050 7,710

Source: Scottish Household Survey 2019 (Using Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016)

Notes:

1. Green, blue or open spaces are public or open spaces in the local area, for example a park, countryside, wood, play area, canal path, riverside, sea or beach.

2. In 2019 for one half of the sample the question wording was changed slightly from ‘green or open spaces’ to ‘green, blue or open spaces’ to check if including the word ‘blue’ made any difference to the response given. No statistically significant difference was found in the responses to the different wordings.

In accessible rural areas, three quarters of people live within five minutes walking distance of a green or blue space. This falls to 71% in remote rural areas and then to 64% in the rest of Scotland. When looking at those people who are within ten minutes walking distance of a green or blue space, the proportion for accessible rural areas and the rest of Scotland are similar, 85% and 86% respectively. The proportion drops to 80% for remote rural areas.

Remote rural areas have the highest proportion of people living more than 30 minutes walk from a green or blue space (11%), while the rest of Scotland has the lowest proportion (2%).

Within the Communities National Outcome of the National Performance Framework there is a National Indicator called Access to Green and Blue Space, which measures the proportion of adults who live within a five minute walk of their local green or blue space.

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Table 13: Satisfaction with nearest green or blue space 1,2 by 3-fold Urban Rural category, 2019
Remote Rural Accessible Rural Rest of Scotland
Very satisfied 54% 43% 29%
Fairly satisfied 27% 33% 43%
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 8% 9% 11%
Fairly dissatisfied 2% 5% 7%
Very dissatisfied 2% 3% 4%
No opinion 7% 6% 6%
Total 100% 100% 100%
Base 990 1,030 7,560

Source: Scottish Household Survey 2019 (Using Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016)

Notes:

1. Green, blue or open spaces are public or open spaces in the local area, for example a park, countryside, wood, play area, canal path, riverside, sea or beach.

2. In 2019 for one half of the sample the question wording was changed slightly from ‘green or open spaces’ to ‘green, blue or open spaces’ to check if including the word ‘blue’ made any difference to the response given. No statistically significant difference was found in the responses to the different wordings.

In remote rural areas over half of people are ‘very satisfied’ with their local green or blue space, while the proportion of people who are ‘very satisfied’ is 43% in accessible rural areas and falls to 29% in the rest of Scotland. In total, 81% of people living in remote rural areas are either ‘very satisfied’ or ‘fairly satisfied’ with their local greenspace. This compares to 76% in accessible rural areas and 72% in the rest of Scotland.

Looking at the people who were ‘very dissatisfied’ with their local green or blue space, the proportion is highest in the rest of Scotland at 4%. This compares to 2% in remote rural areas and 3% in accessible rural areas.

Contact

Email: RuralStatistics@gov.scot

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