Rural areas show resilience in the face of Covid-19

A SEFARI study looked at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on rural and island communities.


A new report has shed light on the impacts of, and responses to, the coronavirus pandemic in rural and island areas of Scotland, showing strong community bonds in the face of adversity.

The research, by SEFARI researchers at the James Hutton Institute and SRUC, aimed to understand how Scottish rural and island areas experienced the pandemic, and to identify the factors that support and promote resilience in these communities.

A further objective was to consider potential routes to a medium to long-term recovery process.

Findings show that the impact of Covid-19 on rural and island communities has been place and person-dependent, as well as being defined by the levels of digital connectivity.

Impacts were more challenging in these communities due to ageing populations, in-migration of retirees, availability of affordable housing, peripherality issues and limited economic diversification. The perceived slow response to the pandemic by local authorities was also criticised.

Dr Mags Currie, a social scientist at the James Hutton Institute and lead author of the study, said: “Rural and island communities have all felt the impacts of Covid-19. Specific factors that have increased their vulnerability include reliance on limited employment sectors; being located far from centralised services such as hospitals; limited digital connectivity; and an ageing population.”

Rob Mc Morran, interdisciplinary researcher in the Rural Policy Centre at SRUC, said: “Communities with a more resilient response have some or all of the following features: a strong sense of community; community organisations and local businesses that are responsive to local needs; the existence of strategic partnerships between community organisations and the public/private sector; and good digital connectivity.”

SEFARI researchers highlighted five prominent factors that promoted resilience in rural and island communities: community cohesion; strategic partnerships and responsive service delivery; the role and responsiveness of community anchor organisations; responsive local businesses and services; and digital connectivity and upscaling online systems.

The study also identified emerging themes from what participants felt a rural recovery should look like which included encouraging young people to move to rural areas, retaining and enhancing digital connectivity opportunities and supporting adaptable local businesses.

Posted by SRUC on 25/03/2021

Tags: Research, Rural Business, King's Building
Categories: Research