Orkney remains on top as it becomes best in UK for rural quality of life

01 April 2017

As well as having the best quality of life of any rural area in Scotland for the fourth year running, the Orkney Islands now takes that accolade for the whole of Great Britain too, according to the latest Bank of Scotland Rural Quality of Life Survey. This is the first year Orkney ranks top in Britain, having moved up from last year’s 46th place.

Why Orkney Islands take top spot

Some methodological changes in the ONS Personal Well-Being Survey – a component of the Index - and the inclusion of two new categories – number of pubs1 and the availability of health clubs and leisure centres2 - have resulted in some significant changes in the Quality of Life Survey rankings compared to 2016, with Orkney being one.

Ten reasons why Rural Orkney has such a great Quality of Life:

  • The employment rate, at 87.6%, is significantly higher than the rural average (77.4%), whilst average earnings of £630 per week are only marginally above the Scottish average for all rural areas (£626).
  • School children benefit from Britain’s largest spending per pupil for primary and secondary children– £9,281 per pupil; double Great Britain’s average of £4,622.
  • People living in Orkney have the lowest levels of anxiety rating in Great Britain and they are one of the most satisfied with life. The overwhelming majority of adults (96.6%) report being in good or fairly good health compared to the Great Britain average of 94.6%. It’s no surprise then that Orkney also ranks highly when it comes to happiness.
  • Crime rates are the lowest in Great Britain, with a burglary rate of just 2.3 per 10,000 people, compared to the Scottish average of 27.2 and 28.7 for Great Britain.
  • Low amounts of traffic on the roads, with just 142 cars per square kilometre, compared to the Great Britain average of 9,617.
  • For their leisure time, they have a large number of pubs to choose from - 20 per 10,000 adults.

Although there is an abundance of space, Orkneys has some of the smallest houses in Britain with an average of 4.5 habitable rooms per home.

Shetland Isles remains second best rural quality of life in Scotland

Those living in the Shetland have the second best quality of life in rural Scotland, having taken this spot since 2012 when the islands dropped from first place. The Shetland Isles are the only other Scottish LAD to appear in the top 20 for Great Britain as a whole, coming in 15th, while the Western Isles sit in 50th place.

Completing the top five for Scotland are the Western Isles, Scottish Borders and Perth & Kinross. The Borders have moved from fifth to fourth place, while Perth & Kinross is a new entry to the top five (up from seventh).

Graham Blair, Mortgage Director at Bank of Scotland, said:

“The Orkney Islands is a stunning part of Scotland with some beautiful scenery. Pair this with one of the lowest population densities and traffic levels in Scotland, as well as the lowest levels of anxiety and highest life satisfaction ratings, and it’s not surprising that the Orkneys offer a quality of life that is unmatched elsewhere in rural Britain.

“The Shetland Islands and Western Isles continue to dominate the Scottish rural quality of life top three for another year, ranking well in a lot of similar categories to Orkney. If it’s a rural life you are after, then nothing beats being up north on one of Scotland’s many islands.”