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Community / Isles will not be forgotten – cost of living researcher says

Lerwick. Photo: Jim Mullay

A RESEARCHER behind a cost of living study has moved to clarify the rationale and methodology behind it after a call for participants on Wednesday received a raft of critical comments.

People living in Lerwick and within a 10 miles radius of the town have been invited to take part in research to help create a better understanding of the needs and costs experienced by those who “live in rural and remote areas of Scotland”.

Comments ranged from describing Lerwick as an urban rather than a rural area to pointing out that the cost of living on the islands are significantly higher than in Shetland’s own central belt.

Speaking for many, North Isles councillor Duncan Anderson said: “Needless to say that myself and other councillors are dismayed at this approach of only asking Lerwick residents – it will not provide accurate results.”

But research assistant Amanda Bryan said she and her colleague Jo Ellen were both well aware of all the points raised and reassured islanders that they would form part of their final report.

She said the current work forms an update of research carried out in 2012, called Minimum Income Standard for remote and rural Scotland, and compares the cost of living in and around Lerwick, Kirkwall and Stornoway with the comparable mainland towns of Wick, Campbeltown and Kelso.

The researchers are looking for people with various backgrounds and age groups to participate in a number of online focus groups.

The dates for the focus groups are as follows:

  • Working age with no dependents: Monday 22 February 18.30-21.30
  • Pensioners: Tuesday 23 February 10.00-13.00
  • Parents: Thursday 25 February 18.30-21.30

Bryan said there was no doubt that the experiences of people living in the more remote parts such as the outer islands would feed into their report.

“We will still be doing the calculations for these areas where we know that people have to pay more, but obviously in these remote places it is not likely that you got furniture shops, so is more about transport and delivery in terms of the additional cost of living there,” she said.

“We will be doing those calculations and will be including that in the report.”

She added that in terms of consistency with the research carried out in 2012 and 2013 they had to follow the same methodology in order to get meaningful results.

“For example, back in 2012 there was very limited shopping online and we know that that will have changed, and that there is probably going to be less variability between the towns and the more remote community in some of those aspects,” she said.

The research is being carried out on behalf of the Scottish Government and Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University.

Anyone who is interested in taking part in the study, or who would like more information, should contact Jo Ellen and Amanda Bryan at 07851 969871 or misrrs.recruitment@gmail.com

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021