16 December 2017

  • Orkney second most desirable place to live with no other Scottish location breaking the UK’s top twenty.

  • Orkney, the Shetland Islands and the Western Isles named the top three locations to live in Scotland.

  • However, Shetland Islands drop 52 places in the UK rankings of best places to live. 

Orkney has again been named the second best place to live in the UK, according to Bank of Scotland’s latest quality of life survey. Orkney retained its title as best place to live in Scotland, followed by the Shetland Islands in second and the Western Isles in third.

Some reasons why Orkney has such a great quality of life:

  • Crime rates are one of the lowest in the UK, with a burglary rate of just 3.7 per 10,000 people, compared to a Scottish average of 24.2 and 29.7 for the rest of the UK.
  • School children benefit from the UK’s largest spending per pupil for primary and secondary children– £9,662 per pupil compared to the Scottish average of £5,928 and £4,645 for the UK.
  • People living in Orkney are the most satisfied with life (8.3 out of ten). The overwhelming majority of adults (96.6%) report being in good or fairly good health compared to a national average of 94.6%. It’s no surprise then that Orkney also ranks highly when it comes to happiness.
  • The employment rate, at 87.0%, is the highest in the UK.
  • Low population density with 22 residents per square kilometre compared to the Scottish average of 487 and UK average of 271.
  • Low amount of traffic on the roads, with just 147 cars per square kilometre, compared to the UK average of 9,519.
  • In their leisure time Orcadians have a large number of pubs to choose from - 20 per 10,000 adults.


Shetland Islands are the second most desirable place to live

The Shetland Islands have also retained their title as the second best place to live in Scotland. They score particularly well for education, having one of the lowest average numbers of school pupils in primary schools across the UK – 19 compared to the Scottish average of 22.9 pupils.

The Shetland Islands also have one of the lowest secondary school pupil to teacher ratio in the UK – 14.7 pupils to teacher, compared to the Scottish average of 17.8. They also have a high spend per pupil compared to the rest of the UK, with an average of £8,701. That’s almost twice the Scottish average of £5,928 and double the UK spend of £4,645 per pupil.

Although the Shetland Islands are the second best place to live in Scotland, it has dropped 52 places in the UK rankings from 18th place in 2016, to 70th place this year. 

The Western Isles takes third place, scoring strongly on low traffic flows, crime rates, class sizes and spending per pupil.

Graham Blair, mortgage director at Bank of Scotland, said, “It’s great to see Orkney retain its title of best place to live in Scotland and the second best place to live in the whole of the UK, losing out narrowly to Hart in the South East of England. With high employment, low population and traffic levels, as well as having lots to do and see, it’s no wonder that Orcadians also have the highest life satisfaction ratings.

“Looking at the differences between the 2016 and 2017 results it’s good to see East Renfrewshire, with its great education results and high weekly earnings average climb from 15th place to 11th. Aberdeen City has seen a drop from 11th to 17th in the rankings despite retaining the title of sunniest place in Scotland.”

Key findings of the survey


Labour Market


Employment is highest in the Orkney Islands 87.0%, ahead of Shetlands (85.5%). The Scottish average is 74.3%.



  • The highest weekly average earnings in Scotlandare in Stirling, at £845 per week (p/w), followed by East Renfrewshire (£789 p/w) and East Dunbartonshire (£739 p/w). The Scottish average is £630 per week.


  • The proportion of adults (16 years and over) with the highest level of qualification gained (such as a degree, NVQ level 4 and above or professional qualification) in Scotland is highest in Edinburgh (49%), followed by East Renfrewshire (45.2%), and East Dunbartonshire (44.6%) – all above the Scottish average of 35.1%.



  • The biggest homes in Scotland are in East Renfrewshire and the Western Isles, which with both having an average of 4.9 habitable rooms. The smallest homes are in West Dunbartonshire (4.2), Glasgow City, Aberdeen City and Dundee City (all 4.3). The average number of habitable rooms in Scotland is 4.6.


  • Broadband speed is based on the proportion of premises able to receive 5Mbps (mega bits per second). West Dunbartonshire and Dundee fair best for internet access in Scotland (both 99%), closely followed by Glasgow and Edinburgh (98%) and Falkirk and North Lanarkshire (97%).


  • East Lothian has the highest average house price to earnings ratio in Scotland (6.2), followed by East Dunbartonshire (6.1) and Edinburgh (6.0).The Scottish average is 5.1.


    Urban Environment


  • The UK’s four most sparsely populated areas are all in Scotland: the Western Isles and Highlands jointly take the top spot for lowest population density, with just nine people per square kilometre (pp/ km), followed by Argyle & Bute (13 pp/km), Shetland Islands (16 pp/ km) and the Orkney Islands (22 pp/km). Scottish average of 487pp/km and national average of 271pp/km.


  • The lowest traffic levels in the UKare found in the Western Isles with just 80 vehicles per square kilometre, Highland (108 vehicles/km) and Argyll & Bute (137 vehicles/km). The Scottish average is 3,333 vehicles/km.


  • Western Isles has the UK’s lowest burglary rate per 10,000 people (2.2), followed by Orkney Islands (3.7) and the Shetlands (3.9). The Scottish average is 24.2 per/10,000.


  • Glasgow has the lowest CO2 emissions in Scotland, with 1.5 tonnes of CO2 per household. This is below the Scottish average of 1.9 tonnes of CO2 per capita.


    Physical Environment


  • The lowest average annual rainfall (804 mm) is in Dundee City.  Eight of the ten driest districts are in East Scotland. Argyll & Bute is the wettest place in Scotland with 2,165 mm of rain. The Scottish average annual rainfall is 1,311 mm.


  • The sunniest place in Scotland is once again Aberdeen City where residents enjoy an average of 27.9 hours of sunshine a week. The Scottish average is 25.1 hours.




  • Scotland’s healthiest districts are Aberdeenshire (96.8%), Orkney (96.6%) and the Shetland Islands (96.5%). In Scotland, 94.7% of households rate themselves as in good or fairly good health.


  • Life expectancy for males at birth is highest in East Dunbartonshire (80.5 years). The Scottish average is 77.5 years.


  • Life expectancy for females at birth is also highest in East Dunbartonshire (83.5 years). The Scottish average is 81.4 years.




  • Across the UK, Primary school class sizes are smallest in Scotland. All 10 local authority districts with the smallest primary school classes are here. The Western Isles has the lowest in the UK with 17.3 compared to a Scotland average of 22.9.


  • The Western Isles has the lowest secondary school pupil teacher ratio of 13.4 compared to 17.8 across the Scotland as a whole.


  • The best Scottish higher results in Scotland are found in Western Isles (84.4%) and East Renfrewshire (81.3%). Both are well above the Scottish average of 68.2%.


  • The highest average school (both secondary and primary) spend per pupil is in the Orkneys (£9,662) – almost twice the UK average of £4,645.


    Personal Well-Being


  • Personal well-being is based on four categories – life satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness:

    • Adults (16 and over) in Orkney have the highest average rating for life satisfaction in Scotland. Based on a score out of 10, the adults in these areas had an average rating of 8.3. The Scottish average is 7.7.

    • With a rating of 8.3 (out of ten) adults in the Western Isles and Orkneys also believe what they do in life is worthwhile, which is above the Scottish average of 7.9.

    • The happiest adults in Scotland are in the Orkneys (8.2), significantly higher than the Scottish average of 7.6.




  • Surprisingly, Argyll & Bute has the highest number of pubs per 10,000 adults in Scotland (25) followed by Orkney (20). The Scottish average is 9.5.


  • For the active, Perth & Kinross is the place to head to for health and fitness clubs where there are 2.7 clubs per 10,000 people. The Scottish average is 1.2.