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


1. Questions such as:

  • how many people live in Bathgate?;
  • is Perth bigger than Inverness or Stirling?; and
  • what parts of Scotland are rural?

are frequently asked of staff in the National Records of Scotland (NRS).

2. Until now, such questions were answered by reference to the previous 10-yearly Census of Population. For the 1991 Census, NRS published a volume Key Statistics for Localities in Scotland (ISBN 0-11-495736-3)[Footnote 1] and also made available more detailed statistics for each 'locality' in the form of Small Area Statistics.

3. These statistics have been used in the calculations of grants for councils and to help target policies and initiatives aimed at particular spatial areas, e.g. the Village Shops Rate Relief Scheme. There is now the prospect of legislation on land reform that will require clear and unambiguous definitions of rural Scotland.

4. To bring 1991 localities up to date, NRS produced a definition of 'settlements' which is based on the density of addresses calculated for each of the 138 thousand postcodes in Scotland. A settlement is generally equivalent to a group of neighbouring localities. Rural Scotland may be defined in terms of these settlements as, for example, all land outside settlements above a given size.


1. Note that this publication is now out of print. It should be available in main reference libraries.