Poverty and not Scotland's lack of sun is mainly to blame for a catalogue of illnesses associated with low levels of vitamin D, a new scientific study suggests.

Previous findings identified links between Scotland's lack of sunlight and conditions such as multiple sclerosis and depression.

However, a study commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Scotland and the Scottish Government claims the country's inhabitants do get healthy levels of sunlight.

ScotCen Social Research found that despite Scotland's latitude of 55° north (meaning sunlight for production of vitamin D only occurs between April and September), the levels of the vitamin in the Scottish population are adequate.

The results may help form government policy in regards to a range of health-related issues.

The researchers said their findings indicated that average blood levels of vitamin D in adults living in Scotland are safely above the level thought to be beneficial.

According to the researchers, the study gives added credence to other documented links between vitamin D levels and wealth, with those from deprived areas and with the lowest incomes exhibiting lower levels of the vitamin.

The researchers said that "the findings from this survey extend our knowledge of the vitamin D status of Scottish adults and will help inform the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) review of the dietary reference value for vitamin D".

"There is a link between vitamin D levels and socioeconomic status, with those deprived areas and with the lowest incomes exhibiting lower levels of vitamin D," the report said.

Charles Milne, FSA in Scotland director, said: "This research provides us with a comprehensive look at the vitamin D status of adults living in Scotland. It further strengthens the evidence base and will be carefully considered as part of the ongoing SACN vitamin D review."

Scottish public health minister Michael Matheson said: "These findings further strengthen the evidence base around vitamin D and should be welcomed. It is vital we continue to raise awareness of vitamin D guidelines among those considered at risk of deficiency.

"We will work with the Food Standards Agency in Scotland to ensure the results of this study are brought to the attention of SACN and considered as part of its review on vitamin D."

The MS Society declined to comment, but in 2009 a study part-funded by the charity claimed to have identified a gene that causes vitamin D deficiency may also cause MS.

Researchers at Oxford University said they found a small group of people with a genetic vitamin D deficiency which has a strong connection to the debilitating disease. The Oxford study claimed there was growing evidence of a link between vitamin D and MS.

Its authors said: "We get vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight and also from some dietary sources. Studies have established the closer people live to the equator the lower the risk of developing of MS, and sunlight is strongly implicated as a cause."

An MS Society Scotland spokeswoman said: "There is a great deal of debate around the links between Vitamin D and MS. We look forward to exploring this report further."