Towns, Rural Scotland and Vulnerability

SAC’s two yearly Rural Scotland in Focus reports are intended to provide a “fast track” to evidence and commentary on rural Scotland and how it is changing. The 2012 edition has just been released and can be downloaded from here  (note large file).

Whilst rural Scotland in itself is an interesting topic in retailing terms, my attention was drawn to the chapter on towns and in particular to the updated Vulnerability Index for settlements across Scotland. This provides updated material for 2012 on the vulnerability of 90 settlements across Scotland, calculated on the dimensions of:

  • Income
  • Working age
  • Job Seeker Allowance claimants, and
  • Public Sector Work.

So what towns would you put at the top of any Vulnerability listing? Well, reading from worst off (i.e. most vulnerable) the top 20 come out as :

The full listing and various maps and discussions can be found in the full report. The overall map looks like:

The authors draw attention to a number of issues which can be seen in these tables and maps:

  1. Other urban areas and small towns are the most vulnerable under the government’s classification. Remote rural towns are highly vulnerable. Rural settlements seem more protected.
  2. South-West Scotland seem to be the most vulnerable part of Scotland – Argyll and Bute, South Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, East Ayrshire and North Ayrshire feature prominently.
  3. This South-West vulnerability is due to weaknesses in 3 of the four indicators (not income), suggesting common and widespread issues that need to be addressed, and not found to the same extent and in the same combination elsewhere in Scotland.

This report is a starting point for looking at towns of this type and in this way. The idea of vulnerability (or perhaps over-exposure?) is an interesting one, but it might be worthwhile thinking how we want to define it more roundly? The question it raises, even at this stage, is then function of places, both as separate places and as systems in wider regions and areas. This presents a challenge for towns, but the answers may well be different in different places which presents a challenge for governments at all levels.

This index is a start for analysis and consideration and is a useful addition to our range of indicators on towns (which is underdeveloped). The commentary in the report, both on this issue, and on the wider rural situation, is well worth consulting.

One of the points the report makes, and it is also true of the implications of the data presented here, is that there is a large gap in Scottish Government Policy between “cities” on the one hand and “rural” on the other. In this “Towns Gap” some places are really struggling, and Scotland is the worse off for it.

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Education and Students.
This entry was posted in Government, Places, Rural, Scotland's Town and High Streets, Town Centres, Vulnerability Index and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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