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National Planning Framework for Scotland




57. Scotland's population is both falling and ageing. The main cause of the current decline is a falling birth rate, though out-migration is still a concern in some rural areas. Scotland's birth rates are currently the lowest in the UK, though not low in comparison with European neighbours. The low birth rate and rising life expectancy are changing the age profile of the population. Since 1981 there has been an 18% decrease in the number of children under 15 and a 29% increase in over-75s. The working population is becoming more middle-aged, with a pronounced shift towards the over 45s. These trends are set to continue as the 1960's baby boom reaches retirement age after 2020.

58. There has been a net reduction in out-migration in recent years. In and out-migration are roughly in balance and net migration is expected to remain at relatively low levels. Elsewhere in the UK and in other parts of Europe population levels are being maintained by higher levels of in-migration. Another factor is the age profile of migrants. While the majority of people moving from Scotland to England are between the ages of 15 and 34, the majority of people moving to Scotland are over 45. This is exacerbating trends towards a lower birth rate and an ageing population.

59. There are likely to be significant differences in population change between different parts of the country. Population growth is forecast in the East of Scotland but significant decline is predicted in Aberdeen, Dundee, and Inverclyde. In rural Scotland, decline and ageing are at their most acute in the Western Isles (see Map 10).


60. Although the population is falling, the trend towards smaller households means that the number of households is still growing. Different places will see different levels of household growth (see Map 11). West Lothian and East Lothian are expected to see the largest increases by 2016. Growth above the national average is expected in Aberdeenshire, Edinburgh and the Lothians, Stirling, Falkirk, Fife, East Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire the Borders and Shetland. Little change is anticipated in Aberdeen, Moray, Angus, Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway and the Western Isles and in Dundee there is a projected decline.


61. These trends have important implications for development in the period to 2025. Increases in the number of households will translate into a requirement for additional houses. However, household projections are based on past trends and should be regarded as indicative rather than as intimations of a preordained future. The recovery evident in areas as diverse as Glasgow and Skye points to the scope for turning around areas which have experienced decline.

62. There is a risk that a declining and ageing population could lead to lower activity rates, a less entrepreneurial society and skill shortages. Under the Fresh Talent initiative, the Executive is encouraging more Scots to remain in Scotland and promoting Scotland abroad as an attractive place in which to live and work. The greater freedom of movement which will result from EU enlargement is likely to offer opportunities to attract people with the skills and abilities needed to develop key sectors of the economy. There is also significant potential for improving on the relatively low activity rates in parts of West Central Scotland. More people are now able to lead an active life after the traditional career span. This offers scope for measures which make it easier for people to continue to participate in the labour market beyond retirement age. However, overall, the potential for expanding Scotland's labour force is likely to be relatively modest over the next 10 years.


63. Fewer children and young people and a greater proportion of older people will mean a shift in the balance between education provision and health and care provision. In addition, the accommodation, care and welfare needs of an older population are likely to have implications for the type and location of housing provision.

64. Flexibility and choice are becoming more important. Increasing individualism and a corresponding weakening in traditional social ties has been a widely identified trend in recent years. The underlying forces at work appear set to continue. Rising consumer expectations are likely to encourage a diverse range of economic activities, in turn driving demand for a diverse range of service provision. Modern information and communications technologies allow new methods of working such as satellite offices and working from home. At the same time, the greater mobility conferred by growing car ownership is tending to increase the separation of home and work, with significant implications for transport infrastructure. Despite falling household size, house buyers are tending to seek more space. Future social, community and economic needs are likely to demand mixed and flexible provision in housing, public facilities, amenities and transport options.