Snapshot of Scotland shows an optimistic nation

SCOTS are becoming more optimistic about money and happier with their local neighbourhood, public services and healthcare, according to a wide ranging study of attitudes.

The 2009 Scottish Household Survey suggested worries over the financial crisis and fears about anti-social behaviour are receding in Scotland, with fewer people concerned about their personal finances and the vast majority rating their neighbourhood as a good place to stay.

But the survey, which provides a comprehensive view of the way Scots live their lives, showed the most deprived areas of Scotland still face significant challenges, with worklessness, poor health and crime more prevalent among the poorest neighbourhoods.

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The snapshot of Scottish life, which has been taken since 1999, sees questions put to thousands of ordinary people on a range of topics such as health, work, anti-social behaviour and cultural activities. Researchers undertake continuous face-to-face interviews throughout the year that are then used by the General Register Office for Scotland to provide a statistical analysis of the way Scots are living their lives.

The 2009 survey reveals that optimism among Scots about their personal financial affairs is on the rise, with the number reporting that they were managing "quite well" or "very well" increasing by 2 percentage points to 49 per cent during the year.

Meanwhile, the perception of local public services improved, with the number of Scots reporting overall satisfaction with health services, education and transport rising by five percentage points to 65 per cent. At the same time, Scots became more positive about anti-social behaviour, with the numbers reporting vandalism, harassment and rowdy behaviour as a problem all falling. In all, 93.6 per cent of Scots said their area was a fairly or very good place to live - a record high for the survey. This rate was found to drop as neighbourhoods got poorer amid a general trend that showed the most deprived areas of the country faced the biggest problems.

The SNP said the results demonstrated the Scottish Government's policies were delivering. Livingston MSP Angela Constance said: "We are making real progress across the country in reducing anti-social behaviour, helping people feel safer on their streets and delivering good quality public services."

But Labour's Andy Kerr said: "This survey underlines the reality of unemployment in too many communities. The first priority should be to get people back to work."

Work and finances

The survey reveals that 59 per cent of men and 50 per cent of women in Scotland are in paid employment, a slight drop on the 2008 results.

The statistics show that the number of unemployed men rose from 5 per cent to 7 per cent and the number of women out of work increased from 2 to 3 per cent. The number of people regarding themselves as permanently sick or disabled remained constant at around 4 to 5 per cent, as did the number of adults in full time training or education at 7 per cent. One in five men and a quarter of women described themselves as retired.

A third of households contained two working adults, with 28 per cent containing just one. meanwhile, 39 per cent of all households in Scotland had no working adults within them – although this figure included retired people.

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More than half – 51 per cent – of households in the most deprived areas of the country reported no adults in work.

Half (49 per cent) of households said they were coping well financially – a rise of 2 percentage points on last year. Meanwhile, a third of single parent households said they were not coping well, compared with one in ten saying the same thing across all household types.


The survey has consistently shown Scots to be happy with their neighbourhoods.

This year, those saying their area was very or fairly good reached a record high of 93.6 per cent, alongside a drop in the number of people rating their neighbourhood as fairly or very poor. That figure decreased from 7.3 per cent in 2008 to 6.1 per cent in 2009.

The survey showed a difference in perception among people living in urban and countryside areas, with 98 per cent of those living in rural regions describing their neighbourhoods as very or fairly good. This figure dropped to 92 per cent in large urban areas as a whole, and 76 per cent in the 10 per cent most deprived areas.

The survey asked Scots about their perceptions of anti-social behaviour. The most common problem was litter, with 26 per cent saying it was fairly or very common in their area. This was followed by rowdy behaviour – 16 per cent – and vandalism – 14 per cent. All of these issues were deemed to be less of a problem than in 2008. Drug misuse or drug dealing were reported to be problematic by 12.1 per cent, down from 12.7 last year. Noisy neighbours were complained about by 9.6 per cent of Scots, a slight drop from 2008.

Household compsition

More than half of all adults in Scotland are married and living with their spouse. Just under a third (32 per cent) are single, 7 per cent widowed and 9 per cent divorced or separated. Only 1 per cent reported being in a same-sex civil partnership.

Marital status fluctuated widely with age, with the majority – 93 per cent – of 16- to 24-year-olds single and the majority (60 per cent) of age group 35 to 44 years in a marriage.

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The gender balance was slightly in favour of females – 52 per cent against 48 per cent males, and the majority of adults living in the house were in the 45 to 59 age bracket, compared to 19 per cent aged 60 to 74, 18 per cent aged 35 to 44, and 15 per cent each for the 16 to 24 and 25 to 34 age ranges.

The vast majority - 96.8 per cent – saw themselves as white, with 82 per cent calling themselves Scottish and 11.4 per cent British. Asian people accounted for 2.1 per cent of adults, with Indians at 0.5 per cent and Pakistanis at 0.7. Black people numbered 0.4 per cent.


According to the survey, just under a quarter (23 per cent) of adults in Scotland have no qualifications, with the figure split evenly between men and women.

A quarter (26 per cent) of adults boasted a degree or other professional qualification, while 12 per cent had an HNC or HND.

Standard Grades or O-Grades were the highest qualification held by 20 per cent of adults, with 15 per cent holding Highers or A-levels.

According to the survey, having a degree had a direct influence on the gross annual income of Scots, with 52 per cent with that qual–ification or equivalent earning more than 40,000. Only 19 per cent of those reaching Higher grade could boast a similar salary level as could just 4 per cent of Scottish adults with no qualifications at all.

In the lower income bracket, just one in six people earning less than 6,000 per year had a degree, with 26 per cent holding no qualifications and 21 per cent just Standard Grades.


The number of smokers in Scotland in 2009 continued the downward trend since the survey began in 1999. Last year, the number of smokers was 24 per cent, down from 25 per cent in 2008 and a fall of six percentage points on the 30 per cent that smoked in 1999.

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More men than women smoked, although in later years, this trend reversed, with 20 per cent of females aged between 60 and 74 smoking compared to 17 per cent of males. Adults in the most deprived areas of Scotland were found to be more likely to smoke.

One third of households contained at least one person with long-term health problems, and that figure increased to 45 per cent among households with an income of less than 15,000 – explained in part by the declining health of pensioners.

Three quarters (75 per cent) of adults said their health was good or very good. One in five (19 per cent) said they were in fair health and 7 per cent said their health was bad.

Local services

According to the survey, the majority of Scots are very or fairly satisfied with their local public services.

Sixty five per cent reported satisfaction with all of those in their local area, a rise of more than five percentage points on the 2008 figure.

Satisfaction was higher when examining each service individually, with health services satisfactory for 86 per cent, schools satisfactory for 83 per cent and public transport for 75 per cent. Fewer than half of Scots – 43 per cent – said they believed local services were of a high quality and just 49 per cent said they thought councils were good at letting residents know what services they offered.

Access to local amenities was found to be fairly convenient for most adults, with local shops used by 92 per cent, chemists by 85 per cent and the post office by 85 per cent.

Culture and sport

Three quarters of Scots reported taking part in a cultural activity during the year. The most popular was reading – 63 per cent – followed by dancing (19 per cent) crafts (11 per cent), music (11 per cent) and art or sculpture (10 per cent). Women were more likely than men to participate, and rates were broadly similar across all age groups.

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The level of education had a bearing on cultural participation, with 89 per cent of degree-educated Scots taking part, compared to 57 per cent with no qualifications. Seventy four per cent of people had attended a cultural event or cultural place such as a museum. The majority of those – 53 per cent – had gone to the cinema.

Some 72 per cent had done some sport or physical activity, including walking, during the previous month.