SIMD 2020: the where of deprivation

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Yesterday saw the publication of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD). SIMD is a tool produced by the Scottish Government to help identify areas where people are experiencing disadvantage in different aspects of their lives. This blog looks at SIMD 2020 and what it tells us about Scottish Parliament constituencies.

A quick bit about the data

The SIMD splits Scotland into 6,976 small areas known as “data zones”. These are then ranked using data relating to around 30 indicators, which help measure different aspects of deprivation. Rankings give us an understanding of where each area in Scotland sits in terms of deprivation.

The Scottish Government have produced a booklet with SIMD 2020 which gives information on what SIMD is, how it is calculated and what you should and shouldn’t do with it. For the purposes of this blog it is worth highlighting some of these points upfront:

  1. “Deprived” does not just mean “poor” or “low income”. It means people have fewer resources and opportunities, for example in health and education.
  2. SIMD should not be used to say how much more one area is deprived than another as the difference between two rankings can vary.
  3. It can be used for comparing the number of small deprived areas within larger areas, for example the number of most deprived areas in local authority areas.
  4. It can be used for comparing the seven domains of deprivation
  5. Although SIMD identifies areas which are deprived, not everyone living in a deprived area is experiencing deprivation.

How do Scottish Parliamentary constituencies compare to each other?

It is possible to calculate how many of Scotland’s most deprived data zones (i.e. within the highest ranked 20%) are within each parliamentary constituency and then present this as a proportion of all data zones in the area. This allows us to show the relative concentration of deprived areas by constituency.

202001_SIMD_Blog_Top 10

The graph above shows that 62% of data zones within Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn are in the 20% most deprived in Scotland. This suggests that the area has the highest concentration of deprivation in the country, in terms of parliamentary constituencies.

Seven of the ten constituencies with the highest proportion of deprived areas are in either the Glasgow or West of Scotland Parliamentary regions. However, within these constituencies it is worth remembering there are some areas which are also considered amongst the least deprived data zones in Scotland. For example, in Maryhill and Springburn, almost 8% of data zones are ranked within the least deprived 20% of data zones in Scotland.


The above chart shows how the proportion of data zones within the 20% most deprived by constituencies compare when separated out by parliamentary region. Only one of the Glasgow constituencies, Glasgow Kelvin, has less than 20% of its data zones in the bottom 20% of the most deprived in Scotland.

There are six constituencies in Scotland which have no data zones in the 20% most deprived. These are Eastwood, Aberdeenshire West, Aberdeenshire East and the three island constituencies. However, this does not mean that there are no individuals or households experiencing deprivation within these constituencies.

What else can the SIMD tell us?

The SIMD looks at seven domains:

  • income
  • employment
  • health
  • education
  • access to services
  • crime
  • housing

It is possible to see where areas rank within these individual dimensions. For example, the Dumbiedykes area, situated near the Scottish Parliament, performs relatively well in terms of income and access to services, but ranks fairly badly when it comes to housing.


Why is SIMD important?

SIMD is a tool to identify problems that areas might be facing. This data can be used to steer policy decisions based on a community’s requirements. It can be combined with other data to aid analysis of local issues. For example, SPICe have used the previous SIMD in conjunction with AirBnB data to look at where AirBnB properties are situated in Edinburgh in relation to deprivation.

One unfortunate side effect of the SIMD is the possible stigmatisation of the areas which appear to be most deprived. That is why it is important to understand that SIMD provides statistical information on a specific local area, but it does not describe local communities.

More information on SIMD can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Greig Liddell, Senior Research Financial Scrutiny Unit, and Andrew Aiton Data Visualisation Manager