Last October, Scotland was ranked best place in the UK for quality of life, beating its English, Welsh and Irish neighbours hands down.
Researchers used EU regional statistics to assess ‘measures of health, safety, and access to education and personal rights’. The Social Progress Index found ‘England trails behind both Scotland and Northern Ireland, beating only Wales among the home nations’.
In 2011, an opportunity arose for my husband to transfer with his company from near Liverpool to central Scotland.
Nearly six years later, we still strongly feel that a move north of the border was certainly the best one we ever made.
But what is it about Scotland that has made this English family glad to now call it ‘home’? Access to education is one of the indicators used to develop the rankings. As both a primary school teacher and mum of two young children this was one of the pulling factors for us.
One of the greatest benefits was the later age at which children begin formal schooling. I am no longer faced with teaching children in their first year who turned four the day before term began, are barely toilet trained and certainly not ready to spend all day in a classroom.
Had we stayed put, my own son would have started school aged four years and six weeks old. I know he would have struggled with that, and my professional experience tells me it would have had an adverse impact on him until he was at least at the end of his third year. Here, he began at five years and one month old, and he’s flying.
At the other end of the educational journey, free tuition fees are another major draw for those who, in England would be faced with bills of up to £9250 for the privilege of attending university.
Another great benefit for families is the work life balance, which in Scotland seems to be exactly that – much more balanced. On both a personal and professional level I’ve never seen so many dads do the school run.
Scotland has a wealth of outdoor adventure opportunities, but even for those who prefer the less adventurous lifestyle, there is an amazing array of cultural and leisure activities. Annual events such as the Edinburgh Festival, the Edinburgh International Science Festival, Military Tattoo and Hogmanay celebrations might be taken for granted by Scots, but they are fantastic for families like ours. Even Scottish council public swimming pools are vastly superior to the English ones.
The NHS is facing a crisis across the UK. However, Scotland has managed to retain its access to free prescriptions and avoided the frightening impact of doctors’ strikes which have affected the English NHS.
Election campaigning is well underway, with politicians telling us what they will change and how they plan to make things better. But perhaps it’s also an opportunity to take stock, and make sure that we don’t take for granted those benefits which already apply to those of us lucky enough to call Scotland our home – which I am very proud to do.
Indeed, as a result of my waxing lyrical about life in Scotland, my mother and sister relocated here last year.
Are there downsides to life in Scotland? The direct flight availability to far flung destinations is limited, and to be honest I’d far rather watch Holby City than River City on a Tuesday evening.
Scottish beer gardens just cut the mustard, and, naturally, there is that small issue of the weather...
Nicky McPherson is a primary school teacher and mother of two. She lives in Dunblane.