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Rural Challenges

Although each locality inevitably has its own mix of challenges and problems, there a number of specific challenges that present in rural Scotland. Formed in March 2011, the National Delivery Group: Rural Sub-Group have identified the following issues:

  • Equality of access and opportunity: Although urban areas exhibit the most distinct, statistically significant areas of deprivation and exclusion, people in rural areas often face similarly significant barriers because of distance from services and places of employment. The challenge in Scotland's sparsely populated rural areas is to identify where clients are and then deliver suitable services to them. Local knowledge and experience, as well as Local Authority datasets, will often be crucial to this, with SIMD statistics unable to provide a fine enough 'grain' of data.
  • Transport: Getting to employment is often one of the most significant barriers for clients in rural Scotland. Distances to workplaces can be significant, which has time and cost implications. Public transport is often only a limited service which may not be available at the times which work is available. Often there will be no public transport between the locations required.
  • Nature of employment: Employment in rural areas is often seasonal, temporary or part-time due to the business base in most rural areas depending heavily on tourism, food processing and primary production.
  • Access to FE/HE: Clients' ability to access FE or HE facilities is often limited in rural areas compared to the facilities available to those living in larger urban areas and cities. There are FE institutions in most Local Authority areas, but distance and travelling time is again a challenge for many clients.
  • Dependence on Micro-businesses: The business base in rural Scotland is not just based on SME (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises). The vast majority of businesses in rural areas are Micro-businesses (with 9 or fewer employees). This means that a strong network of contacts is required in order to successfully place clients.
  • Lack of diversity: Generally there is a less diverse range of job opportunities in rural areas with a dependence on retail and hospitality sectors. This does vary from region to region. The public sector often provides the most attractive employment opportunities in rural areas, although this ability will be diminished for the foreseeable future.
  • Employment opportunities: The very small size of most rural businesses means that they take on fewer new employees so the opportunities to place clients are more limited. They are also less likely to have the appropriate management capacity to support those employees in the workplace.
  • Limited pool of businesses with capacity to absorb client group (risk for SME): The very small size of most rural businesses means that they have less capacity to take on employees where those employees may require extra support and guidance in the workplace.
  • Cost of providing services can be high: Through experience, rural Local Authorities recognise that providing services in rural areas, particularly the remoter areas, can be more expensive than in other locations. The economies of scale that can be achieved in cities and urban areas are not available. It is especially important in rural areas to work in partnership with other local agencies and actors to make most efficient use of the resources available.
  • Scale and economies of scale: The level of service provision required in many rural areas is relatively low (relatively small numbers of clients). These clients are often dispersed over significant geographic areas, with poor road/transport communications. Rural Local Authorities acknowledge that this removes most opportunities to achieve economies of scale. Local agencies and partnerships will need to work together to deliver the services required in the most efficient way possible.
  • Where to deliver services: The services will need to be delivered over large, sparsely populated geographic areas. Commonly used data sets will often be ineffective in assisting the service provider in identifying problem areas or clusters. Close working with Local Authority and other Community Planning Partnership partners will ensure that all available local data/intelligence is available to help appropriately target resources.
  • Childcare issues: Access to childcare can be a limiting factor for people taking up employment opportunities, or being able to travel for employment services/training.
  • Migrant workers: There are significant numbers of migrant workers in some rural areas. These workers have traditionally been involved in food production and food processing, but many are also employed in tourism/hospitality and other trades.