Development and limitations of social relations among diverse rural residents in the Scottish Highlands

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This article focuses on the development and the limitations of convivial, instrumental, and intimate family relations among diverse rural residents in the Inner Moray Firth area of the Scottish Highlands. Drawing on 22 semi-structured interviews with international migrants (EU nationals), internal migrants (UK nationals), and participants who were born and never left, this article identifies and critically discusses how different types of social relations develop, or not, within and between these groups of rural residents. This article indicates that while all participants experienced convivial relations, these encounters did not always transfer into close, meaningful relations. The instrumental and meaningful relations, however, were more ambivalent in practice and related to internal divisions within rural communities defined along the lines of who is perceived to be “local” or “not local”. The instrumental ties were developed among participants with common interests, similar life stages, and experiences and varied in terms of ethnic and national composition. Similarly, while family ties were crucial for a sense of belonging, their ethnic and national composition differed. By illustrating the complex composition of convivial, instrumental, and family ties in rural Highlands, this article highlights that meaningful social relations supporting social integration should not be understood via social encounters with “local” residents only, but also intimate and instrumental social relations within and between migrant populations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7620
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Inclusion
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 Mar 2024


  • conviviality
  • migration
  • rural settlement
  • social integration
  • social relations


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