Scotland tops the table for Quality of Life
Survey after survey confirms Scotland as offering one of the highest quality of life in Europe. For example, the Reward Group’s quality of life index - which takes into account the cost of living, salary information and other factors - places Scotland as the top location in the United Kingdom.
Scotland is renowned for its magnificent scenery, historic buildings and cultural and leisure attractions. The population density is low - around five million people inhabit 77,000 square kilometres, 80 per cent of them in the central belt.
The principal cities are Edinburgh, the capital, and Glasgow, the commercial centre. Edinburgh is an established international business and cultural centre, while Glasgow, which is undergoing a wide-ranging renaissance, has attracted the accolades of European City of Culture 1990 and City of Architecture 1999.
A Temperate Climate
Scotland has a temperate climate, generally only a few degrees below that of England. Because of Scotland’s relatively high latitude, summer days are long, even though winter days are slightly shorter than in the south. For example, in June, Lerwick in Shetland enjoys four more hours of daylight each day than London.
A Modern Economy
Scotland has a broad-based economy, with tourism, information technology and oil-related industries to the fore. Exports include electronics products, chemicals, machinery, metal manufacturers, textiles and whisky, all characterised by the enduring Scottish hallmark of quality.
Scotland is a compact country, with short travelling distances between the principal centres. Excellent road and rail services provide fast and efficient travel throughout the United Kingdom. Four international airports offer regular, scheduled, direct flights to Europe and North America.
Widely available Healthcare
Scotland has advanced medical facilities. Free medical and hospital services are provided through the National Health Service for people employed or "ordinarily resident" in the United Kingdom, regardless of their level of social security contributions. Private medical and dental care is also available, as is private health insurance.
A wide range of shopping
Scotland has a wealth of shopping opportunities, from traditional crafts to the products of the international chains, which are well-represented in Scotland. There are many out-of-town shopping centres, where parking is free and easy. Large supermarkets are open until 8pm and on Sundays, and the principal retail centres have at least one late opening evening a week.
A wealth of leisure pursuits
Scotland’s landscape, which is famous the world over, provides a spectacular backdrop for a wide variety of outdoor activities. There are well established long-distance pathways, a lively hill-walking and mountaineering scene and many commercial skiing centres.
Watersports enthusiasts can choose from sailing, canoeing, water-skiing and windsurfing in lochs, rivers or coastal waters. There is also world-class fishing.
Scotland has the highest concentration of gold courses in the world, and the most varied, from the famous Old Course at St Andrews and the championship courses of Royal Troon, Turnberry, Carnoustie and Gleneagles to the many lesser-known private and municipal courses. In all, Scotland has more than 700 clubs and more than 500 courses.
Spectator sports such as football, rugby and athletics have an important place in Scottish life. There are also many local facilities for curling, horse-riding, swimming, keep-fit, bowling, tennis, badminton and a range of other popular sports.
Each summer, Edinburgh plays host to the longest running international arts festival in the world, as well as a festival of film and television. The capital also boasts some of the finest museums, galleries and historic buildings in Europe.
Glasgow, the second city, has the world-famous Burrell Collection, the Royal Concert Hall, Scottish Opera, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, as well as many of the finest buildings designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It is also host to Mayfest, an annual arts festival, as well as festivals of jazz, folk and Celtic music.
All over Scotland, there are regular opportunities to enjoy music, film, theatre, architecture, the visual arts and the traditional Scottish ceilidh.
Scotland is known the world over for the high standards of its education system. For more than 200 years, a Scottish education has been among the best preparations for life and work. There are two reasons for this.
The first is that Scots have long seen education as the embodiment of democracy, giving people at all levels of society the opportunity to increase their knowledge, earning potential and status.
The second is the structure of the Scottish education system, which was adopted by both the French and American systems. The emphasis has long been on learning rather than teaching, using trained and dedicated graduates.
The Scottish system emphasises vocational training, science and technology.
Scotland, with 13 universities and more than 55 colleges of further education, produces the highest number of graduates per head of population in the European Union.
Public and private schools
Scotland has the best ratio of teachers to pupils in the United Kingdom. In addition, the teaching profession has long been all-graduate, unlike England and many other countries, and teachers have always been held in high social esteem.
Most pupils attend local authority schools, where the curriculum is broadly based and schooling is free. Pupils are not asked to specialise in either science and technology or arts and humanities, and most leave school with qualifications in both areas.
Parents who want a greater say in their children’s schooling can choose an independent school. Around four per cent of Scottish pupils attend schools of this type, which have the freedom to experiment and innovate. Many of them welcome foreign pupils, including children whose first language is not English.
More than 57,000 young adults leave Scotland’s public and private schools each year. All of them are familiar with computers, and many have high levels of computer literacy. A high proportion of them go on to higher education.
Universities and colleges
Given Scotland’s size, the high quality, quantity and diversity of its universities and colleges is remarkable, and many of them are leaders in specific scientific or technological disciplines.
Partnerships between the academic world and industry are a hallmark of the Scottish educational tradition. These well developed interactions give substantial help to both students and industry.
Students benefit from flexible and practical courses that help them to be more employable, and industry gains from exposure to the latest academic research and development findings.
In addition, Scotland’s universities and colleges have a long tradition of supplying graduates to commerce and industry. While academics are at the leading edge of developing new technologies, industry is commercialising and finding new uses and markets for the fruits of their innovation.
For many decades, Scotland had four universities to England’s two.
Scotland now has 13 universities and 55 colleges.
There are around 130,000 students in full-time and part time education in Scotland. Around 85 per cent are in higher education, with the remainder in further education colleges.
Scottish universities run 25 per cent of the language courses, and 20 per cent of science continuing education courses, in the United Kingdom.
Strathclyde University and Edinburgh University Management School run the two largest evening Master of Business Administration programmes in the United Kingdom. These provide flexible study programmes for employees.
Heriot-Watt University offers the only full-time honours degree in brewing and distilling in the United Kingdom.
More than 23,000 people are studying engineering and technology subjects, and more than 4,000 of them graduate each year.
More than 30,000 people successfully completed a full-time higher education course in 1993.
Glasgow University has more students on science-based courses than any other university in the United Kingdom outside London.
Leading edge research
Scottish universities attract almost 20 per cent of all United Kingdom government industrial research funding.
Scotland is a leading research centre for artificial intelligence, optoelectronics, speech and parallel processing technologies.
Scottish universities carry out contract research for leading companies such as Siemens, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell Bull and Phillips (UK).
The Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute at Edinburgh University is one of the world’s top three leading research centres for artificial intelligence.
The Department at Electronic and Electrical Engineering at Strathclyde University carries out leading edge research in a number of specialities, including communications, industrial control, electrical power engineering, measurement and instrumentation, optoelectronics, speech and parallel processing technologies.
Scottish universities carry out contract research for leading companies such as Siemens, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell Bull and Philips (UK).
The Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute at Edinburgh University is one of the world’s top there leading research centres for artificial intelligence.
The Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at Strathclyde University carries out leading edge research in a number of specialities, including communications, industrial control, electrical power engineering, measurement and instrumentation, optoelectronics and signal processing.
Aberdeen University offers the only Master of Science degree in environmental microbiology in the United Kingdom. It is designed to train environmental and agricultural biotechnologists.
The Europa Institute of Edinburgh University was the first centre in a United Kingdom university devoted to the study of the European Union.
Contributed by: The Scottish Enterprise
This article first appeared in the journal: Educational Courses in Britain