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Are the needs of Scottish rural communities adequately met by ‘cost-of-living’ support?

16 December 2022

The Scottish Affairs Committee launches a new inquiry examining whether the UK Government’s financial support to ease the cost-of-living crisis meets the needs of rural communities across Scotland.

Rising rates of inflation and the cost of energy has put significant pressures on household budgets. Both the UK Government and Scottish Government have introduced measures to support households, such as the Energy Price Guarantee and Island Cost Crisis Emergency Fund.

A report by the Scottish Government in 2021 estimated that the minimum cost of living in remote rural Scotland was between 15% and 30% higher than urban parts of the UK.

Rural areas in Scotland face unique challenges, which can create a ‘perfect storm’ of high cost-of-living, particularly around transport, heating and public services.

Rural areas are more likely to pay higher transport and weekly food costs. Almost two-thirds of dwellings in rural areas are not connected to the gas grid, and instead will need to rely on alternative fuels. The price of alternative fuels, such as Liquified Natural Gas, is not controlled in the same way as mains gas or electricity. Declining public services could also more adversely impact rural communities. For example, the Committee’s Access to Cash inquiry earlier this year heard that the impact of closure of bank branches and ATMs can be most severe in rural areas due to challenges around connectivity.

Chair's comment

Scottish Affairs Committee Chairman, Pete Wishart, said:

“The ‘perfect storm’ of the cost-of-living is hitting Scotland, with ever-spiralling heating bills, transport costs and decline of public services. Both the UK and Scottish governments have stepped in and announced initiatives and funding to help ease the burden. Our intention for this inquiry is to explore whether the UK Government’s support meets the specific and unique needs of our rural communities.

“From larger homes leaking heat, to being ‘off-grid’ with the costs of heating fuel not being covered by the Energy Price Guarantee, we need to make sure that rural communities are not left behind in cost-of-living support. We will be carefully examining these points and our committee encourages anyone with views, especially those living in rural areas in Scotland, to submit a written response to inform our inquiry.”

Terms of reference

The Committee is inviting written submissions by Monday 6 February. These should focus on, but not be limited to:

  • The particular challenges facing Scottish rural communities in relation to the cost of living compared with other areas of the UK;
  • To what extent recent UK Government cost of living support measures meet the needs of rural populations in Scotland;
  • Whether UK Government cost of living support could be better tailored to meet the needs of rural communities in Scotland;
  • Any further steps the UK Government could take to support Scottish rural communities in relation to the cost of living; and
  • How effectively the UK and Scottish governments have worked together to coordinate and provide support in relation to the cost of living for the people of Scotland.

Further information

Image: UK Parliament/Gabriel Sainhas