The Western Isles and Orkney have beaten “better off” mainland areas because of their sense of community and security.
The findings are based on a measure of “prosperity” by merging how happy people are with their income levels.
The Outer Hebrides was fifth in the UK, with the Orkney Isles in sixth place, according to the index released by London-based think tank The Legatum Institute today. Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire finished ninth, with Shetland in tenth.
These Scottish regions all beat areas such as Surrey and Oxfordshire into the top ten. On happiness alone, the Outer Hebrides was the happiest place in the UK.
Western Isles Councillor Angus Campbell said he was not surprised by the findings.
“What I get back from people is that it’s a mixture of the life, the security of being in a safe place and the environment – there’s just a good community feel for the place,” he said.
“We now have a lot of community owned land on the islands, with over 65 per cent of the land owned by the people who live on it and I think that’s an important part of feeling part of where you come from.
“To survive here, you have to be living in an atmosphere of working with your neighbours and working together.
“Things like weather incidents tend to show it’s what the communities do themselves that tends to make things work, not what’s provided by the system.”
Many people are now opting to work on the mainland, or further afield, and commute back to the islands, such is the importance of the lifestyle.
”I know a guy who works on a crane in the Caribbean and he’s back and forwards, three weeks on, three weeks off,” Mr Campbell added.
“We also have people working in the Central Belt who go back and forth on a weekly basis – going down on a Monday, then coming back on a Friday because they value what’s here.”
Sian Hansen, executive director of the Legatum Institute, said the findings reveal the importance to people of feeling their lifestyle is “worthwhile”.
“The index shows that while robust economic success can make an area prosperous, this in itself is not enough,” she said.
“Some of the most prosperous areas of the country are those where, regardless of their income, people have the opportunity to lead healthy, fulfilling and prosperous lives.”
WHERE THEY RANK (Out of 170)
Outer Hebrides (Eilean Siar): 5
Orkney Islands: 6
Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire: 9
Shetland Islands: 10 Dumfries and Galloway: 28
Edinburgh, City of: 38
Perth & Kinross and Stirling: 40
Scottish Borders: 47
South lanarkshire: 53
West Lothian: 65
South Ayrshire: 82
Glasgow City: 95
East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire & Helensburgh and Lomond: 107
East Lothian & Midlothian: 109
Clackmannanshire & Fife: 113
Inverclyde, East Renfrewshire & Renfrewshire: 119
Angus & Dundee City: 129
East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire Mainland: 145
North Lanarkshire: 147