According to Highland and Islands research, rural Scotland still lags behind rest of UK, the most costly standard of living in UK
THE STANDARD of living in rural Scotland is 30 per cent more costly than elsewhere in the UK, a new study has found.
The Minimum Income Standard for Remote Rural Scotland 2016, published this week commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Scottish Enterprise (SE), shows the gap between rural and urban areas has reduced slightly, from between ten and forty per cent, since the previous report in 2013.
The report also commissioned by Rural and Islands Housing Association Forum (RIHAF) and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) commended the improvement in recent years but advocated better measures to help rural households with energy saving, delivery costs and the cost of travel.
“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.” Alastair Nicolson
In response to the findings Alastair Nicolson, head of planning 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.”
While commending the Scottish Government on its work so far the report did state that the Scottish rural fuel poverty task force (SRPTF), tasked with implementing energy saving in rural communities, needed to design solutions capable of meeting the “unique circumstances of remote rural Scotland”.
For example, someone driving long distances to work in the rural Highlands still has to spend about three times as much on petrol as someone in an English rural town. This transport and fuel disparity is unchanged since the 2013 report. However, the report did highlight improvements. For example, a basket of goods priced in a small town Tescos were 10 per cent higher than in cities in 2013, but this premium has reduced to 6.5 per cent.
On top of making sure rural areas benefit more from energy saving programmes the report stated that workforces on small islands need adequate access to training opportunities and wider social support services such as childcare.
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.”
Picture courtesy of David Connor
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