National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Scottish Settlements Urban and Rural Areas in Scotland

Scottish Settlements Urban and Rural Areas in Scotland

Annex B - History of Definition of 'Urban' Areas at National Records of Scotland

Terminology and definitions

1. The Census Offices and Census users have used various words for the concept of an 'urban area'. The present definition used at National Records of Scotland is that a settlement consists of one or more neighbouring localities and is entirely bounded by land designated as rural - or by water. Thus Saltcoats, Stevenston and Ardrossan are three localities on the Ayrshire coast and comprise a single settlement because each has a common boundary with one or more of the other two. Similarly the four localities of Kilwinning, Dreghorn, Irvine and Springside form a settlement.

2. For some purposes, a settlement is defined as comprising localities with less than a given distance between any pair of them, so the seven localities above could, in these cases, form a settlement. For the purposes of this paper, the definition of a settlement in the previous paragraph is used.

3. A locality within a settlement has no cast-iron definition. The process that created localities for previous Census included an element of subjectivity. For instance, where does Saltcoats end and Stevenston begin? Settlements are less subjective in that they are defined only by the distinction between 'urban' and 'rural' and not by the division of an urban area into smaller urban areas.