Conference will consider high cost of island living

A conference will this week examine the findings of a report which highlighted the gap in living expenses between rural and urban areas.

Delegates will gather in the Islesburgh Community Centre on Thursday to learn more of the findings surrounding the Minimum Income Standards Report, which was released earlier this year.

Head of planning and partnerships at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Alastair Nicolson, led the group behind the research.

The findings showed people living in rural communities need to earn up to 40 per cent more to achieve the same living standards as those in built-up areas.

They also highlighted minimum weekly budget requirements – excluding rent and childcare costs – of £198 for a single person living in a UK urban area. The same person living in the most remote part of Shetland would, in comparison, need £345. Even a single person staying in Lerwick would have to typically pay £264.

The trend is the same for a couple with two children. A family living in a built up area in mainland UK would have to pay £463, the study found, while their Lerwick counterparts would be paying £597 for the same standard of living. Those in the farthest-flung places in Shetland would be left £769 out of pocket.

A pensioner couple, meanwhile, would pay £334 a week in a remote part of the isles – almost £100 more than a retired couple staying in a UK urban area.

Mr Nicolson said: “People choose to live in remote, rural locations for many different reasons, in particular a higher quality of life.

“The benefits of this can sometimes counteract the higher costs but we are keen to see what else we can do to make living in these areas more sustainable and attractive.”

Opening the conference will be Shetland Islands Council’s political leader, Gary Robinson. He said the research had been worthwhile.

“This is an extremely useful and robust piece of research, providing real evidence to support a number of issues we’re facing in Shetland, such as high fuel bills, travel costs and delivery charges.

“The council, with our partners, will be using the research in a number of different areas, including how Shetland is allocated funding.”

The SIC’s policy manager, Emma Perring, represented Shetland on the research steering group.

She added: “The Minimum Income Standard is an excellent tool to be able to understand the costs of achieving a good quality of life.

“We have been working for a number of years to obtain this information for Shetland and the results provide us with plenty of opportunities to target our work, to be able to assist different households to reduce their costs of living.”

Factors driving additional costs for households in the isles include:

• Higher supermarket prices

• Longer commuting distances, compounded by higher petrol/diesel prices.

• Higher heating costs, driven by a lack of access to mains gas and the harsher climate.

• The additional cost of occasional trips to the mainland.

• Delivery charges for goods ordered from elsewhere.

• For pensioners, additional costs of buying clothes or other goods through catalogues (the calculations assumed pensioners do not necessarily have the internet which can provide on-line deals).

Smaller, more remote areas in the isles could also be saddled with:

• Additional ferry costs for inter-island travel.

• The additional cost of buying groceries in more expensive, local stores.

• Higher heating bills associated, in some cases, with older housing.

The Minimum Income Standard is a nationally-recognised programme of research, carried out by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University.


Add Your Comment
  • Ali Inkster

    • October 1st, 2013 21:53

    What a load of absolute nonsense. I grew up in Lerwick spent years in Aberdeen, Perth, Stonehaven and now I am in Burra and the most expensive and worst place to live was by far and away Aberdeen.

  • Wayne Conroy

    • October 2nd, 2013 2:31

    Seems to me this study was a complete waste of money if the examples of “minimum weekly budget requirements” above are the kind of conclusions they’ve come to. Shame even more money will be wasted holding a conference to examine the findings of this nonsense!

  • Barbara Gray

    • October 2nd, 2013 9:39

    How condescending to suggest pensioners don’t use the internet. If they are this out of touch one wonders what the use of such a report. Gosh living in a more remote area cost more, what a surprise.

  • David Spence

    • October 2nd, 2013 14:18

    I am not so sure where they get their figures from, but it is most certainly nowhere near as high as what this study has produced.

    I reside in Lerwick and I am disabled. I would love to be able to have £264.00 a week in which to live on these islands. As it is, I can survive on less than half this figure quite reasonably by budgeting properly and being careful in what I spend (and I have to say Tesco’s is a big help in this matter).

    I have to agree with Ali, in his comments about the cost of living in the cities. I have just come back from Edinburgh, and it is an absolute total rip-off what you have to pay there. It certainly gives you the impression that everybody there (including residents) are classed as tourists, and subsequently everybody pays those rip-off rates……even going to the public toilets cost 30p lol I have noticed that shopping malls can be the worst in terms of the cost (with their nothing but ‘ designer clothes shops ‘and nothing else there).

  • Wayne Conroy

    • October 2nd, 2013 15:11

    I would like to take back my comment about more money being wasted examining this report… Although its findings seem like a load of absolute nonsense I can see how a Scottish government report like this could be a useful tool.

    I do wonder what a “minimum weekly budget requirement” actually is according to this report. I would have thought that the welfare system would already be paying the minimum budget requirement for example. It also seems strange that a pensioner couple have a minimum budget requirement less than that of a single person – 2 people living cheaper than 1 – I guess it’s all that free bus passes, tv licenses and of course not having to pay for the internet!

  • Douglas Young

    • October 3rd, 2013 8:11

    Champagne lifestyles in remote areas I doot.
    Can we have cost of conference per head please?

  • Mike Grant

    • October 3rd, 2013 12:49

    Given the high cost of living in the Isles, it is just adding insult to injury that private sector wages are noticeably lower than on the mainland.


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