WHEN I lived in Dumfries 20 years ago it was the best place to live in the UK. A Scottish university said so.

Its academics had looked at towns and cities across the country and compared a number of factors – life expectancy, average earnings, crime levels, educational attainment, transport links, affordability of housing, air quality and so on.

Dumfries, they decided, came top and Nottingham came bottom.

It was something the council was very excited about and the slogan “best place to live in Britain” was used on its publicity material for many years afterwards. For all I know it still is.

I can’t say I was ever convinced. It was certainly a very attractive place, with the same predominance of sandstone that you see in Carlisle, the River Nith flowing through the town centre and the Galloway hills never far from view.

But it seemed to be me that cultural diversions weren’t one of the factors the boffins had considered. There wasn’t a lot going on there.

For a city slicker like me, who had previously lived only in busy urban areas, Dumfries was a bit of a culture shock – or more accurately a lack of culture shock.

I would have preferred somewhere with more than one bookshop or music shop, a concert venue and a cinema with more than one screen, showing a film I might want to see.

It supported a goodly number of Italian restaurants, a couple of Indian ones and a reasonable selection of pubs. But there weren’t many options for the weekend unless you were happy to spend them eating and drinking.

It’s clear, though, that we have a voracious appetite for these surveys. This week the Halifax declared that the Eden Valley is among the best places to live. Its Rural Areas Quality of Life survey placed the Orkney Islands top of the list. But the Eden valley came 20th, and top for the North West of England, and South Lakeland came at number 35.

I suppose your preference for a place is very subjective. Those who consider karaoke and Belhaven Best the most exciting activities imaginable could be very happy in Dumfries.

And if you’re on a low income, you’re relying on food banks and your children are among those filling their pockets with food from school, then you’ll take little comfort from hearing that your hometown is placed high on a list.

We are lucky to live in Britain, and indeed in Europe. We don’t have the poverty of Africa or India or the violent crime of the USA.

Of course we have our problems, but those who regularly moan that the country’s going to the dogs should remember that.

If people are to fulfill their potential and pursue happiness then they need the infrastructure. That means well-funded schools and hospitals, affordable housing and steady jobs, a safety net for those who can’t work and reliable public services such as transport or social care.

Put those in place and almost anywhere in Britain could be a good area – wherever a survey places it.