Scottish Household Survey 2019 – An Analysis

BEFS Policy & Strategy Manager Ailsa Macfarlane analyses the Scottish Household Survey 2019, placing the findings in the wider policy context.

The Scottish Government has now published the Scottish Household Survey 2019 Annual Report and Key Findings, which can be found here.

Growing concern about the environment, continued neighbourhood satisfaction, our connectivity – and the impact of culture and heritage.

Environment –in 2019, for the first time, the majority of each age group viewed climate change as an immediate and urgent problem. This evidence may perhaps add weight to the implementation of policies which would support a Green Recovery (BEFS response to this can be read – here).

Neighbourhood – 94% of adults felt their neighbourhood was a good or fairly good place to live and satisfaction in housing was high, 78% also reported a very or fairly strong sense of belonging to their neighbourhood.  This ties into the localism agenda which has been brought to the fore during the COVID crisis and was raised during the recent COVID Historic Environment Resilience Forum (CHERF) workshops. It could also be suggested that this appreciation of place only helps to underpin the importance of maintaining all our places – the poor maintenance of which was demonstrated by the Scottish House Condition Survey statistics discussed by BEFS Director at the start of this year.

Internet access – whilst, when averaged, 88% of all adults now report using the internet and having internet access – the proportion of internet users among those over 60 had only reached 66% in 2019. This may be of note for culture and heritage organisations in what is increasingly being referred to as a ‘post-digital’ age. Not only is there a digital divide between areas of greatest and least deprivation on the SIMD – but there is a digital divide still to be fully bridged between age groups.

Culture and Heritage – a new report focusing on Culture and Heritage has also been produced from the 2019 Scottish Household Survey data. This puts the statistics within the context of policy which is described as: The Scottish Government’s vision for culture, as set out in The Culture Strategy for Scotland is for a Scotland where culture is valued, protected and nurtured, and where its transformative potential is experienced by everyone. Our Place in Time is not mentioned within the document, which perhaps points towards the current policy focus within Scottish Government.

Visits to Historic Places were one percent higher than last year at 35%. However, the disparities noted previously between attendance from both financial and SIMD (most and least deprived 20%) areas appear to have grown slightly, with 21% from the Most Deprived 20% attending an Historic Place, and 48% from the Least Deprived 20%; the income bracket statistics have similar disparities for attending an Historic Place – 25% of those with an income under £10k attending, compared to 46% of households with an income over £30k.

Aspirations of Attendance at Cultural Events and Places has two new biennial questions.  Of attendees, a full 49% had no aspirations for additional attendance. Of those who did wish additional attendance 10% had the aspiration to visit/go more often to Historic Places.

All interviewed (attendees and non-attendees) where asked what, if anything, limits or prevents attendance. The factors most often listed were lack of time (19%) and ticket costs (15%).

Two new biennial questions address the Impact of Culture and Heritage:

Table 6.1 in Culture and Heritage Report

Here we see a new focus on the positive difference interviewees felt culture brought to their lives; and find the importance of heritage highlighted with 85% of respondents agreeing that It is important to me that Scotland’s heritage is well looked after.

Of those who responded that they either strongly agreed or tended to agree that culture and the arts made a positive difference to their life – a further question was asked about what sort of positive difference this was felt to be:

Table 6.2 in Culture and Heritage Report

This is the sort of evidence which is often sought by the sector. However, as there are questions about ‘culture and the arts’ and ‘heritage’ separately in the previous question and this question leads on specifically from ‘culture and arts’, does this muddy the water – or provide excellent evidence – for what aspects of the breadth of cultural heritage people are considering as providing a positive difference to their lives?

This is an extremely short overview of the Scottish Household Survey, I recommend that those with inclination explore the figures more fully across the range of documents. Volunteer numbers have not been expanded upon here – a topic that was repeatedly raised in CHERF. I recommend the Excel sheets for this, as the Volunteering section in the Key Findings document may not provide the heritage detail necessary.

2020 will provide a very different set of numbers, it is concerning that next year’s statistics may reflect not only an inability to choose many of the activities (due to COVID restrictions) but also perhaps a reduction in the money available for leisure choices. Be that reduction to Local Authorities with reduced facilities and resource, or individuals affected by, or mindful of, recession scenarios.

Whilst a message being promoted by the Scottish Government is that Scotland takes culture seriously : 90% of adults were culturally engaged in 2019. Is this enough in the current scenario – is ‘taking it seriously’ enough? Current funding packages have gone some way to protecting jobs and aiding the breadth of the sector in this current crisis – but do we now need to re-examine how we demonstrate the importance of our cultural heritage? Ensuring it is clearly expressing the wide range of benefits it provides; ensuring our cultural heritage is more sustainable, economically and environmentally, so that being taken seriously translates into tangible benefits for people and places, across social and geographic boundaries.

For the 2018 report, Karen Robertson, Senior Research Manager, Historic Environment Scotland explored the key findings (that 2018 article can be found here) and reminded us that:

It should be noted that figures from 2018 onward are not directly comparable with previous years due to substantial changes that were made to the culture questions in 2018, including changes in question wording, categories and order of asking questions. The 2018 culture data will be treated as a new baseline.