IT MAY have been dreich, dismal and downright depressing across Scotland yesterday, but Aberdeenshire was again basking in the warm glow of being acclaimed the best place to live in Scotland for a fourth time in seven years.
The council area, which stretches from the foothills of the Cairngorms on Royal Deeside, to the fishing towns and villages along the Buchan coast, has beaten Shetland – last year’s winner in the quality-of-life stakes – to regain pole position in the annual survey conducted by the Bank of Scotland.
According to the poll, people in Aberdeenshire live longer on average, earn more and perform better at school. More than 90 per cent of residents report feeling fit and well and in good health.
Its employment rate is one of the highest in Scotland at just below 80 per cent and, in an area where thousands are employed in the lucrative oil and gas industry, average earnings are 13 per cent above the Scottish average.
Despite yesterday’s constant downpours, the survey has revealed: “Residents also enjoy a relatively good climate with less rainfall per year – 999mm against the Scottish average of 1,289mm – and slightly more weekly sunshine hours – 25.5 hours against the Scotland average of 24.9.”
Nitesh Patel, economist at Bank of Scotland, said: “Taking a wide range of indicators into account, residents in Aberdeenshire enjoy the best quality of life in Scotland – the fourth time in seven years it has taken this accolade.
“While not being the leading district across all measures, Aberdeenshire comes out on top because it scores consistently highly across nearly all indicators. In particular, Aberdeenshire residents typically enjoy good health, long life expectancy, high employment, low crime and high-quality schooling. On the downside, house prices are relatively high compared to local incomes.”
Councillor Jill Webster, the provost of Aberdeenshire, welcomed the findings.
She said: “I am not at all surprised that Aberdeenshire has come out tops because we have such a fantastic environment that we live in, good employment prospects and great community spirit.
“From mountain to sea, we are the best in Scotland.”
She continued: “I think a whole series of factors contribute to our success. Only this week, it emerged that Aberdeenshire is considered by our residents to be an extremely safe place in which to stay. It’s a combination of the strength of our economy, the scenery and the beautiful environment we have.”
Colin Mackenzie, the council’s chief executive, said: “We are delighted that once again the survey has found Aberdeenshire provides the best quality of life in Scotland.
“Our vision as a council is to be the best council in Scotland and best area in Scotland. This demonstrates that we are on track to reach that goal and reinforces our belief that Aberdeenshire remains the best place to work and live in Scotland.”
A Bank of Scotland spokeswoman explained: “Aberdeenshire is a great place to live because residents tend to be fit and well – 93.3 per cent reporting good health, there is a higher than average life expectancy of 78.2 years and the employment rate is high, at 79 per cent, with many residents enjoying high full-time weekly average earnings of £661, 13 per cent above the Scotland average of £585.”
Last year’s winner, Shetland, is this year reduced to third place in the table.
Taking second place is East Dunbartonshire, where full-time gross weekly earnings are significantly above the Scottish average at £692 and the employment rate of 74 per cent is also above average. Similarly, 92 per cent of East Dunbartonshire residents enjoy good or fairly good health and average life expectancy is 79 years. Residents have some of the largest houses in Scotland with an average of 4.9 habitable rooms.
Despite its two-place relegation, Shetland still scores highly on employment rate and low levels of crime, as well as low population density and small average class size.
East Renfrewshire, in fourth place, performs well on average weekly earnings, number of rooms, access to fast broadband, as well as residents reporting themselves in good health and with long life expectancies.