SCOTS are the blue-eyed boys and girls of Britain.

A major new study of the DNA of the British Isles has found the highest level of the gene that causes the light iris colour in Edinburgh, the Lothians and Borders.

Fifty-seven per cent in the south-east of Scotland have the OCA2 gene, compared with 48 per cent and 49 per cent in the rest of the country - a figure that also happens to be the average for the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Scots and Irish are also more likely to have blue eyes than others, especially the southern English. The blue-eye gene was just 35 per cent in south-west England, 41 per cent in east England and 45 per cent in Wales.

Alistair Moffat, managing director of ScotlandsDNA, the firm that crunched numbers of an enormous sample of 12,000 people who know their ancestry, said: "In Scottish terms, what we think is that the West is more Celtic, with links to Ireland and Iberia, and the east more Germanic, with links to Sweden, Germany, Poland and the Baltic states.

"This is only a hypothesis but links with the Baltic and patterns of immigration may explain how many blue eyed people there are in south-east Scotland."

The Lothians - once part of ancient kingdom of Northumbria, were settled by Angles from Denmark, which is roughly as blue-eyed as Scotland.

But places where blue eyes are more common than not are in a swathe of territory running across northern Germany, northern Poland, all three Baltic states, Finland, central Sweden and much of northern Russia."

Edinburgh recently also emerged as the most "ginger" place in Britain - although Udmurts, a minority in northern Russia, claim to have the most red-haired people on the planet. However, ginger hair appears to be a remnant of ancient Scottish DNA. ScotlandsDNA has still to look at distribution of fair hair, which, like blue eyes, is focused on the Baltic.

Overall across Britain, the eye colour breakdown is 48 per cent blue, 30 per cent green and 22 per cent brown. "We were surprised," said Mr Moffat. "A lot of people think blue eyes are much rarer than they are."

His report added: "It may be that blue eyes are like the peacock's tail. It doesn't confer any evolutionary advantage for the peacock except that it gets him more mates."

The eye colour research will be unveiled at the Who Do You Think You Are? show at the SECC in Glasgow next weekend.