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Scotland's life expectancy rate was "a major factor" in it being rated Western Europe's worst-performing small country, the BBC reports.

That's according to the The Federation of Small Businesses' (FSB) annual Index of Wealth, which cast an eye over 10 countries - including Iceland, the Republic of Ireland, and Norway - with less that nine million citizens, assessing "economic performance, employment rates, health and education".

FSB Scotland policy convener Andy Willox declared: "The index clearly shows that, on these indicators, Scotland is the worst small country in western Europe, and requires urgent action to improve both our life chances and life expectancy. Coming as it does so soon after the election of an SNP government, this year's index shows the new First Minister Alex Salmond will have his work cut out for him if he is to match reality with his aspiration of making Scotland healthier, wealthier, and fairer."

Regarding Scots' tendency to pop their clogs earlier than the competition, Willcox said: "We are already far down the table of comparator countries, and on every count we are travelling in the wrong direction. Health, education, the employment rate, and economic performance are all interlinked. Improvements in health or education should help businesses recruit and retain healthy and highly skilled staff, thus boosting productivity and ultimately economic growth."

The FSB fingered Glasgow as the "worst performing local authority area in Scotland", coming bottom in the areas of mortality, education, and employment. Willcox described the city's lamentable showing as "deeply troubling".

A Scottish government spokeswoman admitted the country's performance was "disappointing", but said it "supports the new SNP administration's case for making the Scottish economy more dynamic and competitive".

She concluded: "This government is determined that Scotland can and will do better. The policies we put in place with the powers of devolution will improve our performance, and with the fuller powers of independence we can give Scotland a clear competitive edge in achieving our overarching aim of strong, sustainable economic growth."

The FSB Scotland report is available here. ®

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