SCOTLAND’S island groups top poll for best quality of life in Scotland – with Orkney beating its rivals Shetland and the Western Isles into first place.
The annual Bank of Scotland Rural Quality of Life Survey measures key indicators including employment rates, earnings, crime, health, sunshine and happiness.
It is the third year in a row that Orkney has topped the poll.
The islands knocked Aberdeenshire off the top spot in 2014 and has remained there ever since, with second place going to Shetland for the second year running.
The Western Isles – voted to have the happiest people in Scotland – moved up to third place, up from sixth last year, followed by Aberdeenshire and the Scottish Borders in fourth and fifth place respectively.
Scoring highest for employment at 86.3% and having the lowest housebreaking rate at 5.1 per 10,000 people, compared to the Scottish average of 31.9, helped Orkney take first place.
Shetland came top for education spending, with the average school spend per pupil £10,821, almost double the national average of £5,834.
Shetland also rated highly in weekly earnings - at an average of £631 per week, second only to Aberdeenshire at £705.
The happiness of people in the Western Isles helped boost them up this year’s rankings - adult residents had an average rating of 8.2, significantly higher than the Scottish average of 7.5.
The Western Isles also have the lowest traffic flows per square kilometre, just 69 cars compared to the Scottish average of 3,236.
Nicola Noble, Bank of Scotland mortgages director, said: “The Orkney Isles have once more scored very well in our Rural Quality of Life Survey, especially the highest employment rate and lowest number of burglaries.
“Much of the appeal of the top three places to live is the quiet pace of life and stunning scenery - albeit with a bit more rain than the British average.
“In terms of personal well-being and general good health, Orkney residents score among the highest in Scotland. The area also performs strongly in terms of average weekly earnings and a high employment rate, long life expectancy and happiness.”Scottish heritage: for stories on Scotland’s people, places and history >>