Understanding the response to Covid-19 - Exploring options for a resilient social and economic recovery in Scotland’s rural and island communities

Mags Currie, Rob McMorran, Jonathan Hopkins, Annie J McKee, Jayne Glass, Ruth Wilson, JE Meador, Christina Noble, MC Craigie, Simone Piras, Fiona Bruce, AW Williams, Annabel Pinker, SJ Jones, CM Maynard, J Atterton

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned Report


What were we trying to find out?
This research considered the impacts of Covid-19 on rural and island communities, how resiliently they have responded; and the most effective ways forward for their recovery.

What did we do?
Our research approach involved: interviewing people in key rural sectors then producing a map to identify factors of resilience. This map was used to identify case study communities. Interviews were undertaken in these communities to understand local perspectives.

What did we learn?
Rural and island communities have been vulnerable to the impacts of Covid. Specific factors that have increased their vulnerability include reliance on limited employment sectors, being located far from centralised services (e.g. hospitals), limited digital connectivity; and an ageing population. Communities with a more resilient response had some or all of the following features: a strong sense of community; community organisations and local businesses that have been responsive to local needs; the existence of strategic partnerships between community organisations and the public/private sector; and good digital connectivity.

What needs to change in the future?
Covid-19 has brought rural vulnerabilities into sharp focus and these vulnerabilities are often connected. Strategic and joined-up partnerships between community, public and private sector organisations will remain important, as well as novel and flexible funding mechanisms to enable place-based and context-specific responses.

What do we recommend?
This research highlighted nine actions that would assist rural and island communities to thrive in the future. These include:
1. Building on existing and new partnerships and supporting anchor organisations
2. Capitalising on and rewarding community spirit
3. Encouraging and supporting young people to move to rural and island communities
4. Retaining and enhancing digital connectivity opportunities
5. Supporting adaptable local businesses6. Strategic partnerships with deliver place-based solutions
7. Continue to support diversification of the rural economy
8. Enhancing the knowledge base on local-regional vulnerabilities
9. Retaining a flexible, targeted and responsive approach to financial support.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherScottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes (SEFARI)
Commissioning bodyScottish Government
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2021


  • community resilience
  • COVID-19
  • rural
  • island
  • tourism
  • economy
  • recovery
  • partnerships
  • local businesses
  • digital
  • diversification
  • place-based policy
  • Regional development
  • financial support


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