Scotland business

'Vulnerable' Scottish rural towns listed

Main Street, Campbeltown
Image caption The report suggested Campbeltown, along with Dunoon, were most vulnerable to downturn

Campbeltown and Dunoon in Argyll and Bute are the most vulnerable rural places in Scotland to a downturn, according to a new report.

The Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) ranked 90 Scottish locations according to factors associated with economic and social change.

Towns in Aberdeenshire, Perth and Kinross and the Lothians appeared to be less vulnerable.

The SAC said more analysis was needed on rural areas.

The 'vulnerability index', produced by the SAC Rural Policy Centre (RPC), used four main indicators to draw up a picture of each town examined.

They included measuring the proportion of a local population of working age, the proportion of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance and the percentage of people working in the public sector. It also included a measure of income deprivation.

The index suggested that a cluster of vulnerable places existed in the south, and particularly the south west of Scotland.

Stranraer and Sanquhar in Dumfries and Galloway rated fourth and fifth most vulnerable on the list, with Dumfries 14th.

Eyemouth and Hawick in the Borders also featured prominently at 15th and 17th respectively.

In contrast, places located relatively close to large urban areas, such as Newburgh, Blackburn and Banchory in Aberdeenshire and Coupar Angus in Perth and Kinross, demonstrated lower vulnerability.

Accessible areas

Dr Jane Atterton of the RPC said: "The vulnerability index provides a means of analysing how current economic and social changes, particularly public sector cuts, unemployment rates and population ageing, are affecting the vulnerability of places in different locations and of different sizes.

"People living in settlements in accessible rural areas, such as Newburgh, can more easily find alternative employment if they lose their public sector job, for example, and are less likely to be left relying on a low income or unemployed.

"In contrast, remote settlements offer a more limited choice of employment, with many relying on public sector jobs or a declining industrial base.

"Continuing vulnerability may lead to a decline in service provision and the out-migration of the local population, putting the future sustainability of places such as Campbeltown and Dunoon at risk."

'Useful picture'

Dr Atterton said towns played a vital role in Scotland's rural and regional development, but were at risk of falling into a gap between urban and rural policies.

She added: "While the vulnerability index offers a useful picture of which towns are vulnerable and which are vibrant, more in-depth work must now be done to understand the socio-economic functions of different places and the characteristics of the wider region in which they are located.

"This will help to explain each settlement's vulnerability in more detail, so that appropriate funding and policy measures can be targeted to groups of places with particular characteristics."

The 90 settlements in the vulnerability index were located across Scotland and were of varying sizes.

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