ISLAND communities in the Western Isles and Shetland are among two of the UK's top performing areas in terms of falling unemployment and rising house prices .
New research has revealed house prices in the Western Isles increased by 78% in the last 10 years, but are still only about half the UK average, according to a survey
The £104,942 it costs to buy the average property in the Outer Hebrides pales in comparison to the £250,000 average price rise in the last decade in the London Borough of Camden. There the average cost of a house is £661,720.
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The average house price on Shetland, which is in the midst of an oil and gas boom, has more than doubled by 104% since 2004 to £153,782.
It is followed by the London Borough of Hackney (84%), Southwark and its near neighbour, the Western Isles (both 78%). The list is rounded off by the London Boroughs of Lambeth (76%) and Tower Hamlets (72%). Unemployment in these areas has fallen by 1.1% to 1.8% since 2004.
Nitesh Patel, housing economist at Bank of Scotland, which produced the report said: "In general, house price growth over the past decade has been stronger in the areas that have seen the biggest falls in the unemployment rate as measured by the claimant count. Areas in northern Scotland and inner London have generally outperformed other areas on both house price performance and a lower unemployment rate.
Angus Campbell, leader of the Western Isles Council, suggested the figures hide a different story.
He said the fall in the jobless total was because of the large numbers of people who are forced make a living elsewhere.
Mr Campbell said: "It is now about 12% of our working population. There are islanders working all over, not just on the rigs in the North Sea. I know people who regularly work in South America and Nigera, and of course the merchant navy has long been a source of employment."
He said in addition many young people left either for education or to seek work and said this explains why the jobseekers' allowance claimant rate in the Outer Hebrides was more than the overall figure in Scotland and the UK.
Mr Campbell said: "They don't appear as unemployment statistics. I was talking to young people in their last year in school in Benbecula last week, and every one of them was leaving the islands."
He pointed to recent figures showing the islands had the highest rates in the UK for fuel poverty, with 10% or more of income spent on fuel and severe fuel poverty (20%).
Mr Campbell said most of the increase in house prices would have been in the early part of the 10-year period when it was coming from a low base. Holiday houses would also have had an effect.
Around £85,000 would buy a three bedroom semi-detached house in Castlebay on Barra, while £125,000 could buy a four-bedroom bungalow with views of Loch Roag on Lewis.
On Shetland, the building of Total's £800 million gas terminal at Sullom Voe means that the local economy is buoyant.
Inverness-based economist Tony Mackay has predicted Shetland to top the economic growth league for Scotland in 2014.
The islands have a population of 23,000, but the Total project is employing 2000 people, and is worth £20m a year.
A four-bedroom detached house on Benbecula in one-third of an acre would cost about £149,000.
The high housing allowances paid by Total have led to pressures on the housing market.
Jacqui Smith of Anderson and Goodlad solicitors and estate Agents in Lerwick, said recently: "The market is pretty buoyant with all the work at Sullom Voe."