New study launched into cost of rural living

New research into the minimum cost of living in rural Scotland has been commissioned by a partnership of Scottish organisations focused on economic and social development.

The ‘Minimum Income Standard for Remote and Rural Scotland’ study will look at the price of goods and services required by different household types to achieve a reasonable standard of living.

The research is being carried out by the highly regarded Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) at Loughborough University, in partnership with the Centre for Remote and Rural Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is leading the project, along with local authorities Highland Council, Moray Council, Argyll and Bute Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Shetland Islands Council, housing groups Rural and Island Housing Association Forum, Scottish Federation of Housing Association, Chartered Institute of Housing (Scotland), and Scottish Enterprise.

Rachael McCormack, director of strengthening communities at HIE, said: “This important study will help our understanding of the cost of living in rural Scotland today.

“It’s about more than just food, clothes and shelter. It is about people having what they need to take opportunities and make the choices necessary to play a full part in society.

“Loughborough University is the international leader in this area of research, and we are delighted to be able to enlist their expertise alongside UHI to extend this vital study into rural Scotland.

“The findings will help inform local, regional and national policy makers and shape the activities of the range of agencies involved.”

Di Alexander, who chairs the Rural and Island Housing Association Forum, welcomed the launch of the study.

“The quality of the research findings should reliably inform policy discussions about what really constitutes ‘affordability’ for Scotland’s rural and remote communities – they deserve no less,” he said.

Donald Hirsch, director of the CRSP at Loughborough, said: “We’ve already conducted income standards research across the UK but this has mainly looked at the needs of people in cities and urban areas.

“We have studied the living costs of rural households in England, compared with urban households.

“However, the costs faced by people in remote areas of rural Scotland may well be different.

“Our research looks not only at the price of goods and services paid by people in different areas, but also at how the definition of a minimum ‘basket’ of goods and services varies. Living patterns are bound to be different in remote areas – for example, in terms of use of transport and patterns of leisure activities.”

Previous research carried out by the university in England has resulted in living wage levels being introduced in some areas by local employers.

The results of the study will be published next year.