Understanding Scottish Places with OS data

The Understanding Scottish Places (USP) platform launched in April 2015, offering a way of understanding the similarity of places across Scotland. The tool contains a range of demographic, social and economic data on all 479 Scottish settlements with a population of over 1,000 people. Deliberately designed to avoid a simplistic ranking of places as better or worse, USP focuses on the shared characteristics of towns.

The platform is formed of three parts. The first two elements have been created using national data sets – a new typology of Scottish towns and an assessment of towns’ inter-relationships. The third part of the platform is the USP Your Town Audit, which is designed to help users gather local information which complements the national data available through USP.

Phase two of USP

The USP tool was accessed by over 11,000 individual users in the first two years, with feedback enabling the USP Consortium, which includes Scotland’s Towns Partnership, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, and the University of Stirling, to release an updated tool in 2017.

This version included:

  • Commuter flows – a new indicator showing the top daily flows in and out of each town.
  • Tourist bed places – a new indicator showing tourism accommodation capacity in each town.
  • Diversity of retail offer – a new indicator showing the diversity of the retail sector in each town, which also appears in the inter-relationship scale.
  • An ‘Export to PDF’ tool for individual towns, to be able to easily download your town’s results.

OS greenspace data included in phase 3

The USP Consortium continued to develop the tool with the November 2018 update, which included OS greenspace data. A measure of greenspace for towns was seen as a vital addition. USP measures greenspace hectares per 1000 population, sourced from Greenspace Scotland. This comprises play spaces, playing fields, public parks and public gardens as a measure of publicly-accessible green and recreational areas in a town.

The greenspace indicator in USP can be used as a proxy to gauge a number of key features – health, leisure, well-being, environmental sustainability and bio diversity; and green infrastructure supporting human infrastructure, offering a different perspective to our town and city centres.

How USP is being used

North Ayrshire Council used USP in the creation of its second Local Development Plan and was recognised in the shortlist for the Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning 2017. Also, partly inspired by the example of USP, the Welsh Government has commissioned an ‘Understanding Welsh Places’ town data tool.

Find out more about USP and try it yourself: www.usp.scot

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