Islanders sought for study on price of island life

People are being sought for a study on how much it costs to live a decent life on a Scottish island – and are being offered £50 to share their story.

Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, where researchers will look at how much it costs to live on the island. PIC: Stephen Branley/geograph.org
Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, where researchers will look at how much it costs to live on the island. PIC: Stephen Branley/geograph.org

The major piece of research has been commissioned by the Scottish Government and will be carried out by social policy experts at Loughborough University.

The study will look at six island and remote communities across Scotland with those living in the Stornoway area now needed. A total of 24 people are required – and each will receive £50 in vouchers for their time.

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The latest recruits will be asked to contribute to a list of items needed to live a decent standard of life on Lewis. The basics such as food, heat and shelter will be looked at along with other items essential to island life – such as waterproof clothing.

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The information will be used to work out the minimum income required to live in island and remote communities in Scotland with the information to crucially inform policy on tackling fuel poverty in the more sparsely populated pockets of the country.

Abigail Davis, research fellow at the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, said: “We have lists of what people need to live in urban areas of the UK but we need different lists for different parts of the country.

"What we need to look at is what needs to change on the list if you live in, say Kirkwall or Stornoway, where people might say they need to upgrade their outdoor wear or need an additional heater. This is the type of detail we will be going into.”

Researchers are looking for participants from three separate groups – pensioners, those of working age without children and households with children.

The findings will then be used to help the Scottish Government identify those who are living in fuel poverty – and those at danger of being unable to afford to heat their homes.

The Scottish Government defines a household to be in fuel poverty if more than 10% of its net income,after housing costs, is required to heat the home and pay for other fuel costs – with not enough money left for a decent standard of living.

Currently Orkney has the highest levels of fuel poverty (58.7%) in Scotland and Edinburgh the lowest at 20%. The majority of the Highlands and Islands have fuel poverty levels of between 38.7% and 58.7%.

Fuel poverty is exacerbated in rural and island homes given that rural homes are typically larger than urban dwellings, with vast swathes of properties not connected to the gas network. Meanwhile, other costs associated with island life, such as travel expenses and high petrol prices, soak up typically lower income levels to leave less for energy bills.

Ms Davis said those who took part in the study would receive vouchers for shops such as Tesco and Argos.

She said: “We are asking them to give up three hours of their time and we think it is right that they are recognised for their contribution. We genuinely couldn’t do our work without them. It’s absolutely crucial that we get people and we want them to understand that their contribution is greatly valued.”

To take part in the research contact [email protected] or phone 07851 969871.

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