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Understanding the role of places in city regions and rural Scotland


The report investigated the economic roles of places outside Scotland’s main cities, and in particular, their contribution to city regions. The report aimed to: develop a shared understanding of the types of places that make up Scotland’s economic geography; better understand the actual and potential flows and relationships between specific locations and their nearest city or cities; and use the findings to identify the most appropriate and effective kinds of interventions needed to raise the economic performance of places outside Scotland’s main cities.


The methodology consisted of a literature review and the creation of an economic typology of places, through the collection of 40 economic indicators for 317 town districts. This typology identified 6 broad groups and 22 more detailed economic Types of place. The research applied the typology to case studies, including an in-depth investigation of 19 case studies. The report also looked at the policy implications through a review of strategies and trajectories in 10 case study towns.


The typology was designed to distinguish between places based on their economic role and link closely with the key drivers of urban competitiveness. The report found that the economic roles of places outside Scotland’s main cities are in important ways defined by their physical closeness, or otherwise, to these cities. Cities are unique: the key driver that non-city places lack is innovation. Cities as regional hubs play a disproportionately significant role in determining the economic trajectory of the region as a whole. Economic roles played by non-cities vary considerably between city regions and there appears to be benefits for a region from having a clear regional hierarchy. Agreement on, and clarity of, the structure within a region is important for guiding public and private sector investment. All places are to a greater or lesser extent legacies of their economic past and the theme of post-industrial transition is fundamental to Scottish town trajectories. Not all town trajectories in the city region context are about increased dependency on cities. If economic strategy is formulated at regional level, the regional outcome may be higher than through a more dispersed strategy.


The report suggests there is a case for greater local specialisation and outlines the economic Types of place that are more adaptable. The report recommends that the typology has further potential to offer lessons on benchmarking between places, identify where investment in innovation assets would be best located and consider how local areas contribute to Scotland’s key industries. In particular, Scottish Enterprise could carry out an audit of local assets or roles in relation to each priority industry and consider these local assets systematically in industry development policy. The report suggests that applying sustainable development principles to the implications of this research will re-shape local and regional development.

Author Scottish Enterprise (SE)
Published Year 2010
Report Type Research
  • Business infrastructure
    Area regeneration, Local/community regeneration