Our Briefing Paper

The Scottish Government has produced a report looking at the rural economy.  We have had a read through and pulled out some of the most relevant points for SRA.  You can download a PDF version of our Briefing Paper.

Key Findings

  • Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry account for just 4% of the Gross Value Added (GVA) in Islands and Remote Rural areas, and 3% in Mainly Rural Scotland[1]. It is the smallest employer in Mainly Rural Scotland (4.4%).
  • Fastest growing sector is ‘Businesses and Services’ (up by 169%), smallest growth was in ‘Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’ (up by 34%). Growth rates for the Islands and Remote Rural Scotland are largest in Construction (up by 131%).
  • Women living in Remote Rural have the lowest annual income, and the largest median Gender Pay gap being at £5,076. This reflects the Scottish average.
  • Unemployment is lower in Rural Scotland than Urban Scotland – out-migration of the unemployed to seek employment may account for this.
  • More people in Rural Scotland are in part-time employment than in rural; and self-employment is more common in rural Scotland.

Defining Rural

Scottish Government classifications tend to be used throughout the report where possible, i.e. rural are settlements with population of less than 3000.  By this definition 98% of Scotland’s landmass is rural, around 19% of Scotland’s population.

Sectoral Analysis

See Figure 1 for pie charts showing the three largest and smallest industry sectors in terms of GVA share in Mainly Rural and Islands and Remote Rural Scotland in 2015[2].  See the full report (page 15) for a further breakdown by local authority area.

As expected from the relatively small impact on the rural economy, Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry only accounts for about 1% of the overall Scottish economy.  This is far outweighed by the leading sectors Manufacturing; Public sector; and Distribution, Transport, Accommodation & Food.

Figure 1[5]

Rural Growth

Scotland’s Mainly Rural economy has nearly doubled between 1997 and 2015 (91% increase).  This has been driven by most of the sectors analysed in the paper, the exceptions being agriculture, fishing and forestry; manufacturing; and financial services. Agriculture, fishing and forestry has shown the lowest GVA growth in islands and remote across rural Scotland with no growth at all in the islands and remote and a growth of 34% in mainly rural Scotland.

Employment and Unemployment

The report highlights the structural elements that affects unemployment rates across rural Scotland, ie that people may choose to move to urban areas to seek employment given the greater job opportunities provided.  Given this, it is of little surprise that on average unemployment levels are lower in both accessible rural and remote rural.

In remote areas, ‘Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing’ is the largest source of private sector jobs (15%) followed by ‘Accommodation and food services’ (14%).  So although Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing is a small part of the GVA, it is still a significant employer in the remote rural areas across Scotland.

See Figure 2 for a graphic showing rural and urban employment rates, arranged by relative size in the Scottish economy.

Figure 2[6]


Earnings and the Gender Pay Gap

There is a discrepancy between accessible rural where people have the highest average incomes and remote areas which have the lowest average income.  As we know, the low earnings are further impacted by having to pay more for food, fuel and other goods.  The paper highlights previous research which shows that to counter this effect, remote rural incomes need to be between and tenth and a third higher.

Table 1: Median gross annual pay for full-time employees (figures in £)[3]





Rest of















Table 2: Gender pay gap by geographic area[4]





Rest of


Annual median

wage difference




Gender pay gap




Although the gender pay gap is highest at 17% in Remote Rural areas, and work needs to be done to address this disparity, it is worth noting that this is in line with the gender pay gap across the whloe of Scotland.  SRA would seek assurances that work to address the gap in Scotland is rural proofed.


Digital Connectivity

Although not a stand-alone issue in the report from the Scottish Government, it does highlight internet access across Rural Scotland and further breaks down the type of internet connection available.  Disappointingly, however, these figures have not been brought up to date (2015 and 2013 respectively).


Report in full: https://www.gov.scot/Publications/2018/02/3310

[1] For the purposes of this paper, the classifications of Accessible Rural; Remote Rural; and Island tend to be used.

[2] Understanding the Scottish Rural Economy, Scottish Government, 2018, p14

[3] Understanding the Scottish Rural Economy, Scottish Government, 2018, p43

[4] Understanding the Scottish Rural Economy, Scottish Government, 2018, p43

[5] Understanding the Scottish Rural Economy, Scottish Government, 2018, p15

[6] Understanding the Scottish Rural Economy, Scottish Government, 2018, p31



Paul Daly

Paul Daly

Paul has an MSc in Environmental Studies, and a BA (Hons) in Psychology.

One thought on “Our Briefing Paper

  • Gordon Harrison
    7th March 2018 at 11:17 am

    The findings of this report adds weight to our recommendation that we could help regenerate the rural economy by combining superfast broadband with affordable homes AND affordable workplaces. This would hopefully stimulate working from a rural home, and by providing places for offices, storerooms, studios etc perhaps new service businesses can be established look after local and wider communities.


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