Defining the 'local economy'

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The purpose of the evaluation is to identify the benefits of the path network to the local area, but you need to be sure that you measure the economic benefits brought by people from outwith that area. This is the most reliable method of calculating the ‘at least’ economic benefit (see section 2.3) brought by path networks.

Unfortunately there is no agreed ‘definition’ of a local economy in Scotland, except in general terms as being the area where products and services are supplied. This means that it is difficult to compare economic impact between different studies, and worse, it makes it hard for local groups to be certain that their evaluation has any credibility.

The Path Benefits Toolkit therefore uses a ‘standardised’ approach to defining the local economy based on the postcode(s) through which a path network passes. We have used the Postcode Sectors, as defined by the General Register of Scotland for Census data, to identify areas that are likely to provide the necessary services (i.e. food, fuel / transport links, accommodation etc.) for visitors.

You can download a map of postcode sectors in Scotland from the SCROL website

A postcode sector is defined as an area encompassing a range of postcodes (depending on population density), and is usually a whole postcode minus the last two digits (e.g. IV27 1). A map of postcode sectors in Scotland is available on the SCROL website (Scottish Census Results On Line), and an accompanying list defines where multiple postcodes are amalgamated to create a Postcode Sector of acceptable population size for statistical purposes. Although these Postcode Sectors do not necessarily reflect identifiable communities or service provision areas, this is the most coherent framework available that will lead to a consistent approach to measuring benefit across different parts of the country.

This is, necessarily, a compromise, but we anticipate that this will provide the most robust basis for comparing evaluations, and has the added benefit of being comparable with the 2001 (and future) Census data.

By linking this with section 4.1, you could produce a map that shows the extent of the path network and its relationship with the area of the local economy, which is one or more postcode sectors.

Once you have confirmed the extent of your local economy, the questions about visitors’ expenditure must relate to this area - you can’t measure expenditure in the region instead of the local economy. For example if you define your local economy as IV27 1, you are only interested in their expenditure in that area, not in Inverness, or ‘The Highlands’.

About the toolkit


This toolkit has been designed and written by Walking-the-Talk based on research and initial development by the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University.