Shetland Partnership

Poverty and Inequality in Shetland

The Story So Far

In 2004, Shetland’s then Director of Public Health (NHS Shetland) and Environmental Health Manager (Shetland Islands Council), highlighted that Shetland would only be able to effectively tackle health and wider inequalities if everyone had an understanding of what they were, in our remote, rural context.

The data available to us was mainly from national databases and our knowledge was highly reliant on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD).

The Shetland Partnership commissioned a piece of Research into Deprivation and Social Exclusion in Shetland.  This provided a comprehensive picture of the experience and impacts on households in Shetland who are struggling.  The findings were used to inform strategic direction and activity in the years ahead.

In 2011, in recognition of the importance of ensuring the experiences of young people were known, peer research was funded, which the participants called Poverty is Bad – Let’s Fix It!!  A subsequent project led to the following films being produced by young people, living in Shetland.


The Council was a key partner in the commissioning and delivery of A Minimum Income Standard for Remote Rural Scotland.  This research, published in 2013, built on research elsewhere in the UK, on the Minimum Income Standard (MIS), based on the minimum budgets required by various types of households.  A Policy Update was undertaken and reported in 2016.

Since 2005, the Shetland Partnership has consistently championed the findings: through conferences, presentations, workshops and training.  In 2015, they agreed to set up Shetland’s Commission on Tackling Inequalities. 

The Commission was tasked with assessing the nature, causes and impact of socio-economic inequalities in Shetland, and to use this to develop recommendations to reduce these inequalities.  

The Commission was independently chaired, with commissioners invited and nominated from across the public and voluntary sector.  The Commission sat on six occasions, considering key themes related to:
•    Baseline Research;
•    Household Finances;
•    Fuel Poverty;
•    Transport;
•    Geography and Communities;
•    Early Intervention and Prevention.

Information was drawn from published data and reports and invited evidence from a range of agencies and communities within Shetland and beyond.  

The recommendations from the Commission were approved by the Shetland Partnership.  The evidence base, set out by the Commission, and their recommendations, have largely formed Shetland’s Partnership Plan 2018-2028. 

Shetland was one of a number of areas of the UK to set up a commission, with the purpose of examining and developing approaches designed to tackle poverty and inequality, summarised in this report by the Carnegie Trust.  

One of the recommendations from the Commission was to understand more about in-work poverty in Shetland, to provide an indication of the level of in-work poverty, and what it was like for those people experiencing it.  Living Well in a High Cost Economy was published in 2017.