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

The 1991 Census

6. For the following Census, National Records of Scotland had digitised the boundaries of postcodes. It was decided to use this information in creating localities, as we would have the population density for each postcode. So firstly postcodes were classed as urban or rural. A postcode was urban if either it had been assigned to a locality in 1981 or it had 5 or more persons per hectare. Then, groups of neighbouring postcodes were identified and, if the population of the group was 500 or more, the group was designated a locality.

7. Because this method would not identify non-residential areas that had come into existence since 1981, we decided to ask local authorities to scrutinise these localities and, where appropriate, suggest amendments. Following the acceptance of most of these amendments, we had the final allocation of postcodes to localities. Several additional localities, typically in crofting areas where many dwellings in villages had several hectares of land attached, were created at this stage. In these 'crofting' localities, all or most of the constituent postcodes were not 'urban' as defined above. These localities were accepted as such because, despite their low population density, they were considered to be villages acting as centres of local activity in a similar way as higher density localities elsewhere in Scotland. Finally, as for 1981, localities were grouped into settlements and an urban-rural code assigned.

8. For confidentiality reasons, the statistics for any 'higher area' such as locality were aggregated from the best-fitting set of output areas (refer to Annex A paragraph 5). Output areas had already been created and therefore did not nest within localities. For the smaller localities, the best fit was not all that good. We had presentational problems in explaining the difference between a locality defined in terms of postcodes and the area for which we had produced statistics (one or more output areas).

9. Even when defined in terms of postcodes, some localities included large tracts of rural land outside the built up area because these tracts had been (arbitrarily) included within the boundary of some of the locality's postcodes.