They may be nearer Norway than London, but the Shetland Isles have the best quality of life in Scotland, according to new research.
The sixth annual Bank of Scotland Quality of Life Survey which tracks where living standards are highest in Scotland by ranking local performance across key indicators such as the labour market, housing, the environment, education and health, placed the Shetlands in the top spot based on residents’ health and life expectancy, employment and school performance.
Residents tend to be fit and well with 93% reporting themselves to be in good or fairly good health with a higher than average life expectancy of just over 77 years.
The employment rate is the highest in Scotland, close to 84%, with many residents enjoying high incomes with weekly average earnings of £605, higher than the £575 average for Scotland.
The level of school qualifications is above the national average. Some 91% achieve five or more SCQF level 4 awards compared to the Scotland average of 78%.
Inhabitants live in relative security with one of the lowest crime rates in the country and the islands have one of the lowest population densities with just 15 people per square kilometers.
Living the good life does not come at a high cost. Average house prices in the Shetlands are 4.2 times average gross annual local earnings, below the Scotland average of 4.7.
However, residents enjoy on average three hours less sunshine per week compared to Scotland as a whole and only just over half of households have a good level of broadband access.
Shetland is closely followed by Aberdeenshire which held the top position in the 2010 survey. Aberdeenshire scores well on employment rate at 81%, has average weekly earnings of £642 and 93% of residents enjoy good or fairly good health and live on average of 78.2 years.
Residents enjoy a relatively good climate with less rainfall per year than the average for Scotland and, on average, one hour more sunshine per week. However, living there is relatively expensive with an average house price to earnings ratio of 5.7, one of the highest ratios in Scotland.
Aberdeenshire is followed by East Renfrewshire, the Orkney Islands and Aberdeen City. These areas generally score well on employment rate, higher than average life expectancy, residents regard themselves in good health and pupils excel in school exams.
‘This year the Shetland Islands top the Bank of Scotland Quality of Life Survey. The islands score highly relative to the average for Scotland on several indicators, such as health, life expectancy, employment, average earnings, school results and low crime rates. Even average house prices are relatively low in relation to earnings, highlighting that a high standard of living does not always come at a price,’ said Nitesh Patel, economist at the Bank of Scotland.