The level of income required to afford a socially acceptable standard of living and to participate in society is ten to thirty per cent more expensive in remote rural Scotland than elsewhere in the UK.
The report on Minimum Income Standard for Remote Rural Scotland 2016, published today (Wednesday 30 November), was commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Scottish Enterprise (SE), the Rural and Islands Housing Association Forum (RIHAF) and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA).
It shows the gap between rural and urban areas has reduced slightly, from between ten and forty per cent, since the previous report in 2013.
Falling energy costs have to some extent eased the burden recently. In the longer term, developments such as the extension of broadband access and new delivery networks have the potential to change the way people live and the costs they incur.
The new study highlights the importance of collaboration between public sector organisations and lists a number of important issues, such as heating and transport costs, at which public sector intervention could be targeted to useful effect.
Capitalising on broadband roll-out to create more high-paying jobs can potentially help make rural communities more attractive places to live and work, and boost their long-term resilience.
Ensuring the workforce has adequate access to training and development opportunities and wider support services such as childcare can also help.
Fergus Ewing Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity said: “I welcome this latest Minimum Income Standard Report and note the positive impact that lower diesel and petrol prices has had on those who have to travel long distances. The Scottish Government is already doing much to support rural communities through transport initiatives and Rural Fuel Poverty measures, and we will continue to work with rural communities to identify the best solutions to rural challenges.”
Alastair Nicolson, head of planning and partnerships at HIE, said: “That the cost of living is higher in remote rural Scotland will be no surprise to the people who live in these communities. A great deal of public policy is already targeted at reducing that disparity to ensure equality of opportunities in all parts of the country. The roll out of fibre broadband well beyond where the market would reach is one recent example of action in this area.
“This report does however show that a number of factors still conspire to make the cost of living at a socially acceptable standard more expensive in more remote areas, particularly small islands. While a number of interventions being progressed currently will make an impact, further work is required from the public sector to mitigate the excessive costs associated with living in these parts of the country. We will be working with the Scottish Government and other public sector partners to ensure the full implications from this research are understood and used to help inform planning and priorities across a range of policy areas.”
The full report is available at www.hie.co.uk/minimum-income-2016