Aberdeenshire has been ranked as having the highest quality of life of any rural part of Scotland. The area has topped a poll for its high income, low crime and good education – for the fourth time since 2006.
The latest Bank of Scotland Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey found that people living in Aberdeenshire tend to be fit and healthy, with a higher-than-average life expectancy – and also enjoy more hours of sunshine than other Scots.
The survey examined local performance across the labour and housing markets, the environment, education and health to determine the highest standards of living in the country.
In second place, the Shetland Islands, which ranked highest in the list last year, scored highest in Scotland on employment – more than eight out of ten of its residents are employed – and comparatively high weekly average earnings.
In Aberdeenshire, 93 per cent of residents reported themselves to be in good or fairly good health, while they also boasted a higher than average life expectancy of 78.2 years – compared to the national average of 75 for men and 80 for women.
Maureen Watt, MSP for Aberdeen south and Kincardine, welcomed the report. She said: “It’s a fantastic place to live. You can be at the sea one minute and, within a very short space of time, up skiing in the mountains. There is such a variety of places to see.
“Schools are generally pretty good and the housing market is fairly buoyant. At the moment, the area is definitely bucking the trend of the economic downturn.”
However, the report found that life in Aberdeenshire is not perfect. The average price of a house in the area is 5.7 times the average gross annual local earnings – well above the Scottish average of five times earnings. In addition, only 70 per cent have a good level of broadband access due to the remote locations of some of its housing.
Lewis Macdonald, MSP for North East Scotland, said: “I believe Aberdeenshire is one of Britain’s best kept secrets. The area has good economic opportunities both in the local area and on a global scale.
“However, it does have occasional downsides: the strength of the economy can mean house prices are rather high and that can be a problem, especially for young people starting out in their careers.”
Nitesh Patel, an economist at Bank of Scotland, said: “Aberdeenshire has performed consistently strongly across a wide range of indicators for a number of years. Recent surveys have shown the Shetland and Orkney Islands to have performed well in a number of factors, but this year they have been overtaken by Aberdeenshire.”
She added: “While Aberdeenshire might not necessarily be the top area in any one factor, its strength is that it performs strongly across nearly all indicators.”