The research was commissioned as part of Scotland’s programme to address fuel poverty, which is particularly high in remote rural areas where both fuel and other essentials cost more than elsewhere.
The research shows that it costs 15-30% more to live in remote areas of Scotland, both mainland and the Islands, even before the cost of domestic fuel is taken into account. In particular, people living in these areas have high transport costs, associated with travel to work and other essential amenities, and often are unable to use public transport for these journeys.
They also face higher delivery charges and higher prices in some shops, particularly where households have to use local stores rather than supermarkets in towns. In addition, the cost of fuel is higher because most areas do not have mains gas, many homes are not well insulated and the climate is harsh.
Legislation passed in 2019 by the Scottish Parliament requires the Scottish Government to introduce measures to reduce fuel poverty over the next 20 years. The measure of fuel poverty is based on whether people can afford to keep their homes warm and have enough left over for an acceptable standard of living, as defined by the Minimum Income Standard calculated by Loughborough’s Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP).
The research just published on remote areas breaks new ground, by giving official recognition to the higher living costs in these areas, guiding the Scottish Government in where it needs to direct funding in order to tackle fuel poverty, such as better home insulation.
Matt Padley, one of the report’s authors and Associate Director of CRSP, said: “With living costs and especially the cost of fuel rising, life will become tougher for people living in remote areas, who already face sky-high fuel bills and many other additional costs.
“We hope that this report will encourage the Scottish Government to give high priority to addressing these high costs, for example by improving the energy efficiency of homes and ensuring that good broadband connections reduce the need for travel.”
Abigail Davis, Associate Director of CRSP who led the research, said: “The people we spoke to in the Scottish Highlands and Islands told us about their day-to-day experiences that make living in remote rural Scotland very different from the rest of the country.
“Whether needing more weatherproof clothing, travelling further to access work, shops or leisure, or paying higher prices in some stores, we have been able to estimate how much more it costs to afford the minimum in these areas. In many cases, people simply had fewer choices about where to buy things than those in urban areas of the UK, and this too could push living costs up.”