Scotland’s population projections

Inward migration the only driver of population growth.

Scots are expected to live longer but inward migration will be essential to ensure the country’s population continues to grow, according to national statistics published today.

The figures project that there will be 240,000 more pensioners over the next 25 years, an increase of 23.2%, while the working age population reduces by 7,000 people.

No natural growth is expected, meaning that deaths are anticipated to outweigh births each consecutive year from now on, with the only population increase coming from inward migration.

Life expectancy is projected to increase for men and women, and the gap between male and female life expectancy will narrow, with a baby girl born in 2043 living to 83.8 years and a baby boy living to 80.6 years.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said:

“We want people in Scotland to live longer, healthier and happier lives so this projected increase in life expectancy is extremely welcome.

“Today’s figures also suggest that inward migration will be the only driver of population growth in Scotland, however, they do not take into account the damaging potential impact of Brexit.

“Our pension age population is projected to grow while our working age population falls, and could decline even further if EU migration is reduced. This is why Scotland needs inward migration to support our public services and economy, particularly in sectors like tourism, hospitality, construction and agriculture, but also to enrich and diversify our society.

“The Scottish Government recently established a Ministerial taskforce to look at Scotland’s future population challenges and develop new solutions to address demographic changes, including supporting rural settlement and growing our birth rate and working age population.

“However, it is clear Scotland urgently needs powers to deliver a tailored immigration system so we can mitigate against the risks of the UK Government’s increasingly restrictive policies and ensure Scotland can continue to be a welcoming, progressive and diverse country.”

Chief Executive of the National Records of Scotland and Registrar General for Scotland Paul Lowe said:

“Scotland’s population is projected to continue increasing, but at a slower rate than it has done in previous years.

“Past trends suggest that there could be more deaths than births in the next few years, with migration to Scotland projected to be the only driver of population growth.

“Over the next 25 years, there are projected to be a growing number of older people, fewer children, and the working age population is projected to make up a slightly lower proportion of our total population given the expected increase to the pensionable age population.”


National Records of Scotland have issued a statistical news release about the figures.

Additional analysis showing the possible effect on the future population size of Scotland in scenarios of reduced EU migration is also available.

A projection is a calculation showing what happens under certain assumptions about future fertility, mortality and migration. The assumptions are based on past trends and do not attempt to predict the impact of political circumstances such as Brexit. If recent changes have not yet affected population estimates or trend data that the projections are based on, they will not affect the projections.


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