Townscapes: Scotland



Benjamin Goodair, Research Assistant, Bennett Institute for Public Policy
Professor Michael Kenny, Director, Bennett Institute for Public Policy


October 2019

About this report

This is the second in a series of papers analysing the fortunes of towns across Britain. The analysis draws upon data relating to public service provision, economic outcomes and demographic changes.

This report examines towns in Scotland.

Key Findings

  • The recent economic fortunes of Scotland’s towns have been mixed, with some doing better than the British average, and others suffering from high rates of deprivation.
  • Scotland’s west coast is home to many of the most economically declining towns in the country.
  • 12 of the top 20 British towns for increases in public services are in Scotland.
  • Overall, Scottish towns have fewer available services located in them than towns in England and Wales. A town is 19% less likely to have a mental health practitioner if it is located in Scotland.

About Townscapes

The declining economic fortunes of many towns, and the chasm that divides the experiences and outlooks of many of their inhabitants from the metropolitan centres where wealth and power have become concentrated, are issues of growing interest in political life and public policy.

In the UK, the preponderance of support for Brexit among town-dwellers, and the countervailing values of many young urbanites, has sparked a deep debate about how and why towns are locked out of the circuits of growth in the modern economy, and how the inequalities associated with economic geography can be more effectively tackled.

Our Townscapes project offers a deeper analysis of how towns are faring across the regions of Britain and elsewhere. It aims to step away from the generalisations and dogmas that infuse much of the contemporary policy debate and offer instead a more finely grained picture of how different towns relate to their wider regions and nations, as well as to their nearest cities. It showcases the merits of a more granular and regionally rooted perspective for our understanding of geographical inequalities and the kinds of policy needed to address them.


  • About the author

    Professor Michael Kenny, Co-Director, Bennett Institute for Public Policy

    Professor Kenny directs the Institute’s place and public policy programme.   Learn more

    Mike Kenny