High Level Summary of Statistics: Key Trends for Scotland 2006

Presents key trends for Scotland across all areas of governement activity.

15. Population and Migration


Projected Population

Scotland's population in mid-2005 is estimated at 5,094,800. It has been falling slowly since the mid-1970s (peak of 5.24 million in 1974), having exceeded 5 million for the first time in 1939. Looking forward, the population is projected to rise to 5.13 million in 2019 before falling to 5.07 million by 2031, falling below 5 million in 2036.

The population will increase up to 2019 because the natural decrease (where the number of deaths exceeds the number of births) is assumed to be offset by more migrants moving to Scotland. After this the natural decrease will become the most significant factor in the levels of Scotland's population, overshadowing the assumed levels of in-migration. Since the late 1990s the number of births has been below the number of deaths (by 2,300 in 2004/05).

Scotland is not alone in having a "natural decrease" in population ( i.e. deaths exceed births). But, for most of Europe, this is compensated by higher in-migration than in Scotland. The population of Europe ( EU-25) is projected to increase (by 2.7% between 2004 and 2031). Italy, Germany and seven of the new accession states in Eastern Europe are amongst the countries with a projected population decline which exceeds Scotland's over the next 30 years.

Projected Percentage Population Change in Selected European Countries 2004-2031 image

Source: Government Actuary's Department ( GAD) ( UK and constituent countries) and Eurostat.
Note: Eurostat also publish an alternative UK projection not shown here.

Web link
Population projections

Age Structure

There are peaks of people in their mid-50s and mid-30s. This is a result of the "baby booms" after the Second World War and in the 1960s. The recent decline in births is reflected in the tapering at younger ages. There are relatively more elderly women aged over 75.

Estimated population by age and sex, 30 June 2005 image

Source: General Register Office for Scotland ( GROS) 2005 mid-year population estimates.

Web link
Mid-year 2005 population estimates Scotland

Changes in Age Structure

Looking forward, Scotland can expect to see fewer people in the younger age groups and more older people (particularly aged 75 and over).

The projected percentage change in age structure of Scotland's population, 2004-20311 image

Source: Government Actuary's Department 2004-based national population projections.

Working Age population

This means that people of working age will reduce, as a percentage of the total population.

Age structure of Scotland's population 2004-2041












Working Age






Pension Age






Source: GROS 2004 mid-year population estimates and GAD 2004-based national population projections.

Working age and pensionable age populations are based on the state pension age for the given year. Between 2010 and 2020, state pension age will change from 65 years for men and 60 years for women, to 65 years for both sexes.


Births in Scotland

The long term trend in the number of births has been downwards for many years.

The number of births in 2002 (51,270) was the lowest since civil registration began in 1855. Since then, however, the number has increased. The total in 2004 (53,957) was the highest in 5 years and 2.9% more than in 2003.

The smaller number of births has been accompanied by a trend towards later child bearing. In 2004, the average age of all mothers was 29.4, compared with 27.4 in 1991, 26.1 in 1977 and 27.4 in 1964.

Live births Scotland 1855 - 2004 image

Source: GROS registration data

Births European Comparison

Scotland's birth rate (10.6 per thousand population in 2004) is lower than the UK (11.7) and some European countries such as France (12.7) and Ireland (14.2). But, as the chart below shows, Scotland's total fertility rate* is similar to the European average.

Total Fertility Rate, Selected European Countries, 2004 image

Source: GROS and Eurostat.

*The total fertility rate ( TFR) is a commonly used summary measure of fertility levels calculated by summing the age specific rates for a single year. It gives the average number of children that a group of women would expect to have if they experienced the observed age specific fertility rates in each of their childbearing years. For a population to replace itself, the TFR needs to be around 2.1.


Deaths in Scotland and Europe

The number of deaths has been falling gradually for many years. In 1975, for example, the number of deaths was 63,125, while the total for 2004 was 56,187, the lowest-ever level and 4% below 2003.

Despite improvements in the death rate, Scotland's death rate (11.1 per thousand in 2004) remains very high compared with the UK (10.3 in 2003) or the rest of Europe (9.8 in 2002 for EU-25). Life expectancy, similarly, is improving but still well below the UK and most parts of Europe.

Life expectancy at birth, 2003, selected countries, Males image

Life expectancy at birth, 2003, selected countries, Females image

Source: GAD ( UK and constituent countries) and Eurostat.


Net Migration

Migration is more difficult to measure than births and deaths. People can move within the UK, emigrate, or move to the UK from within the European Economic Area with no obligation to register their migration.

Traditionally, Scotland was a country of emigration. For example, in the mid-1960s there was a net outflow of around 40,000 people per year. However this has changed. Since the early 1990s, inflows and outflows have been approximately equal, while in the last three years there have been net in-migration gains of around 9,000 in 2002-03, 26,000 in 2003-04 (the highest net gain recorded) and 19,000 in 2004-05.

Broadly speaking, migrant flows in and out of Scotland in recent years have been 80,000+ in each direction (50,000+ migrating to or from other parts of the UK and 30,000+ to and from the rest of the world). The level of net migration can be significantly affected by relatively small changes in these gross flows from year to year, particularly if one flow rises while the other falls.

Estimated net migration, Scotland, 1951-2005 image

Source: General Register Office for Scotland

Migration Data Sources

The best available sources of migration information are GP registrations and the International Passenger Survey ( IPS) which samples people using the principal air, sea and tunnel routes to and from the UK. The IPS sample is small, particularly for Scottish migrants (approximately 100 survey contacts during 2004) and estimates derived from the IPS are therefore less reliable than UK-level estimates - particularly as regards country of origin/destination and age of migrants.

The 2001 Census, provides a snapshot of better data, based on the Census question about "What was your usual address one year ago?" Even that does not identify people who were in Scotland one year ago but have since moved out with the UK.

Web link
Statistics on Migration - Scotland Census 2001

Regional Variations

Local Area Population

There are large regional variations.

Rural areas generally have above-average fertility. For example, in 2004 East Renfrewshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Highlands were the local authority areas with the highest age-standardised birth rate (that is, a birth rate which reflects the proportion of the population of child bearing age). Fertility tends to be lower in the cities. Death rates are high, and life expectancy low, in Greater Glasgow and, to a lesser extent some other parts of west central Scotland.

The patterns of migration over the period 1995-2005 indicate the highest net out-migration rates in: Aberdeen City, Shetland Islands and Dundee City. The highest net in-migration rates were in East Lothian, West Lothian and Scottish Borders.

Between 1995 and 2005, the combined effect of these factors, along with the underlying population structure, resulted in a population increase of more than 6% in West Lothian and East Lothian and a decrease of more than 6% in Eliean Siar, Aberdeen City, Inverclyde and Dundee City.


Household Projections

Between 2004 and 2024, the number of households in Scotland is projected to increase by 13% to 2.5 million - an average of 14,800 additional households per year.

Most of the projected increase is the result of the ageing population and more people living alone or in smaller households, rather than an increase in the overall population. The average household size is projected to decrease from 2.22 people in 2004 to 1.97 in 2024.

As shown below, there is a large projected increase in the number of adults living alone, from 770,000 (34% of all households) in 2004 to over a million (42%) by 2024. There are also projected increases in other small households - households containing just two adults without children are projected to rise from 670,000 to 810,000, and the number of households containing one adult with children is projected to rise from 150,000 to 200,000.

In contrast, the number of larger households is projected to fall, with households containing two or more adults with children decreasing from 460,000 (20% of all households) in 2004 to 320,000 (12%) by 2024. There is also a projected decrease in the number of households containing three or more adults, from 200,000 to 150,000.

The population projections show that Scotland's population is ageing, with a projected increase in the number of people in the older age groups and fewer people in the younger age groups. This trend is reflected in the household projections, with the largest increases shown in households headed by people aged 60 and over (an increase of over a third between 2004 and 2024, from 770,000 to 990,000). In contrast, households headed by someone aged under 60 are projected to increase by just 2%, to around 1.5 million. The number of households headed by someone aged 85 or over is projected to more than double over the same period, from 56,000 to 120,000.

Projected households in Scotland by household type: 2004 and 2024 image

Source: Scottish Household Projections, General Register Office for Scotland

Web link
Household estimates and projections

Registrar General's Annual Report

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