Is Orkney the best place to live in the UK?
Orkney has taken the top spot in an annual survey ranking the best place to live in the UK – but is it really?
The archipelago which lies 10 miles (16km) off Scotland’s north coast, is famed for its spectacular landscapes and archaeological treasures but it is home to just 22,000 people, spread over 20 inhabitable islands.
The Halifax Bank of Scotland Quality of Life survey ranked it above all other areas of the UK, with Richmondshire in North Yorkshire in second place, followed by Rutland in the East Midlands, Hambleton in North Yorkshire and Eden in Cumbria in fifth place.
Orkney got the top spot based on its high employment levels, low crime rate, strong exam results, smaller primary class sizes and good health and happiness scores.
But is it really possible to say that these factors outweigh the difficulties of living on an island, with the problems that brings.
By Huw Williams, BBC Scotland reporter in Orkney
This survey, like many others before it, takes into account factors like residents’ health and life expectancy, employment and crime rates.
And, like many other similar surveys, it gives top place to Orkney.
Organisations which promote the islands will seize on that fact.
And many local people will undoubtedly be proud that Orkney regularly scores well in such league tables.
But there may also be some scepticism – based largely on what reports like this don’t ask about.
They never seem to include things like the cost of living, reliability of transport links, robustness of digital connectivity and levels of fuel poverty.
Even Orkney’s biggest fans would have to concede the results might look rather different if those factors were included.
All the top five are relatively sparsely populated, with Orkney averaging just 22 people per kilometre.
Other factors that were judged to be in Orkney’s favour were the affordability of housing (an average house price of £173,349) and the high employment rate, with almost nine in ten (88%) 16-64 year-olds in work.
The weekly average earnings in Orkney (£671) were well below some other parts of Scotland and the UK but are slightly above the average.
People in Orkney also enjoy one of the lowest crime rates in Scotland, with 5.9 crimes per 10,000 population, compared to a national average of 44.1.
Maybe this is why figures from the Office of National Statistics indicate adults living in Orkney are among the most happy, satisfied and content in the UK, with low anxiety rates.