THE islands may have been drenched by drizzle while the rest of Scotland basked in glorious sunshine yesterday. But when it comes to a contest for the quality of life, there is no better spot in the country than Shetland, according to a new survey.
Shetland, with a population of just over 22,000, wins above all other rural areas in Scotland by scoring highly when it comes health, life expectancy and employment.
Shetlanders also earn above the Scottish average, have better educational qualifications than most and one of the lowest crime rates in the country, according to latest Bank of Scotland rural areas quality of life survey.
The only potential drawbacks to living a life of Reilly on Scotland’s most northerly island archipelago are transport costs and the weather as residents enjoy, on average, three hours less sunshine per week compared to mainland Scotland.
The survey also ranks the overall quality of life in neighbouring Orkney in third place – separated by Aberdeenshire, which has now been overtaken by Shetland as the most desirable rural part of the country in which to live.
Shetland’s quality of life accolade was welcomed yesterday by veteran islands councillor Robert Henderson, the vice-chairman of the environment and transport committee of Shetland Islands Council.
Councillor Henderson, 68, who stays at Cullivoe on the island of Yell, said: “I’m not really surprised to hear this news but it’s obviously very welcome.”
He said: “I have stayed here for 60 odd years and I have never had to lock the door of my house in all that time.
“We were in Australia last year for six weeks and we never locked our door when we went on holiday. And if that can happen anywhere else in Scotland I’d like to know about it.”
Councillor Henderson continued: “I think that what makes Shetland special is the freedom that bairns have to roam around and basically do as they please. And, for adults, the quality of life is the same. The quality of care that the elderly get is second to none.
“The weather, to me, is the only drawback but you can’t have everything. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”
Andy Steven, the manager of Promote Shetland, the official marketing body for the isles, said he was not surprised that Shetland came top of the survey.
“It’s good to see external studies endorse what the folk that live here take for granted,” he said. “Shetland is a very special place – we’re proud of its uniqueness, quality of the produce and beauty of the landscape. We hope the news will encourage more people to consider Shetland as a place to visit, live, work and invest.”
Shetland may be virtually treeless. But the islands boast 138 sandy beaches, 1,697 miles of coastline, and 6,080 archaeological sites. And, according to the Bank of Scotland survey, Shetland is a great place to live for a host of reasons.
A bank spokeswoman said: “Residents tend to be fit and well, with 93 per cent considering themselves to be in good or fairly health.
“They also have a higher-than-average life expectancy of just over 77 years.
“The employment rate is the highest in Scotland, close to 84 per cent, with average earnings of £605 – £30 above the [weekly] average for Scotland of £575.
“The level of school qualifications is also above the national average – 91 per cent achieve five or more SCQF level 4 awards, compared to the Scotland average of 78 per cent. Inhabitants live in relative security, with one of the lowest crime rates in the country. The Shetland Isles have one of the lowest population densities, with just 15 people per square kilometres.
“Living the good life does not come at a particularly 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.”
Nitesh Patel, economist at the Bank of Scotland, said: “The Shetlands have performed consistently well against a wide range of indicators to demonstrate that its residents have among the best quality of life in Scotland.
“The islands score highly relative to the average for Scotland on several indicators. Average house prices are relatively low in relation to earnings, highlighting that a high standard of living does not always come at a high price.”