Scotland's population continues to increase

Issued on behalf of National Records of Scotland.

For the 8th year running, Scotland’s population has continued to increase and stands at a record high of 5.42 million, according to statistics published today by the National Records of Scotland (NRS).

The figures relate to Scotland’s population as at 30 June 2017 and show the population continuing to age, with just under one in five people (19%) aged 65 and over, compared to 16% in 2007.

Why has Scotland’s population increased?

Positive net migration is the reason Scotland’s population increased, with 23,900 more people coming to Scotland than leaving (from both overseas and the rest of the UK) over the year to mid-2017. In contrast, natural change (births minus deaths) has not contributed to Scotland’s population growth. Across Scotland, there were 3,800 more deaths than births in the year to mid-2017.  

Although Scotland’s population increased by 0.4% over the year, the growth rate has slowed compared to previous years. This is due to a reduction in overall net migration (down from 31,700 people in the year to mid-2016), and an increase in the number of deaths. Nevertheless, Scotland’s latest population growth remains in line with the normal ranges we have seen over the past decade, where annual growth varied between 0.3% to 0.7%. 

Tim Ellis, the Registrar General for Scotland, said:

“Migration continues to be main driver of Scotland’s population growth, but in the year following the EU referendum fewer people arrived from overseas than in the previous year. Overall net migration, from both overseas and the rest of the UK, remained positive with more people coming to Scotland than leaving.

“The growth in Scotland’s population varies across the country – around two thirds of Scotland’s councils (21 councils) increased in population over the last year, compared to a third (11 councils) which experienced population decline.” 

An infographic summarising the key points of the NRS report and an interactive data visualisation comparing mid-year population estimates between Scottish council areas is available on the NRS website.


 The National Records of Scotland (NRS) is responsible for producing statistics on Scotland’s population.

Today’s report gives estimated population figures for the whole of Scotland and for Council and NHS Board areas. A range of material is available, including:

  • The full publication (including Council and NHS Board area breakdowns) and previous years’ population estimates can be downloaded from the Mid-Year Population Estimates section of the NRS website.
  • An infographic supplement and interactive data visualisation have also been prepared to accompany this release. These can be accessed from the Infographics and Visualisations section of the NRS website.
  • An overview of the results from the Mid-year estimates for each council area is available in NRS’ Council area profiles, along with other NRS statistics.

Information about the methodology and quality, including strengths and weaknesses, of the statistics can be found in the Mid-year Estimates for Scotland Methodology Guide.

It should be noted that the data sources used by NRS to estimate migration at council area level do not allow the country or group of countries that overseas migrants come from to be identified.

Population estimates for the UK as a whole will be published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in June 2018. Further details can be found on the ONS website.

Back to top