Introduction, Structure and Approach


In March 2022, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands announced that the Scottish Government will develop ‘an action plan to address depopulation to be published in 2023’. The ‘Addressing Depopulation Action Plan’ (ADAP) will deliver on a commitment in the Scottish Government’s National Islands Plan to ‘develop an action plan to support repopulation of our rural and island communities’.

At the November 2022 meeting of the Ministerial Population Taskforce, the then Minister for Transport asked officials to assess the extent of our knowledge about the cause/effect of connectivity on population outcomes within Scotland, with a view towards informing future policy development and delivery.

Transport Analytical Services, in partnership with Population Policy, have therefore commissioned AECOM to undertake a research project to enhance the evidence base around transport and other aspects of digital connectivity, and their links to local level population and household location choice experienced at a community level across parts of Scotland.

Findings from this research will form one output to directly inform the development of the Addressing Depopulation Action Plan (ADAP), due for publication in 2023. Where possible, the research outputs will signpost towards clear actions and deliverables for areas focused on digital connectivity to deliver on, as part of the ADAP’s rural and urban components.

Structure and Approach

This report will present evidence relevant to the research brief. It will aim to answer the following research questions:

  1. To what extent do Digital Connectivity and Physical Mobility (i.e. transport) impact on location decisions for people and businesses?
  2. To what extent are Digital Connectivity and Physical Mobility (i.e. transport) substitutable?
  3. Does this differ by activity, demographics and geography?
  4. To what extent do the above variables impact on depopulation occurring within communities?
  5. Can potential future access interventions consider the above variables in the context of proactively supporting attraction and retention within locations of Scotland which have experienced, or are experiencing, population decline?

The note will draw on evidence collected through a literature review, interviews with academic experts, panel surveys and qualitative fieldwork, to outline evidence in response to these questions and provide a summary of themes and recommendations.

This report has been structured to provide:

  • Summary of findings from the literature review.
  • Summary of the fieldwork including the findings from interviews with academic experts, focus groups, and panel surveys.
  • Summary of themes and recommendations.