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Foreword from the Registrar General

I am pleased to introduce the 165th Registrar General’s Annual Review, my second since taking up post.

Since the last review we have continued to build on our strong reputation for the production of high quality and trustworthy statistics through the work of our talented teams.

We are living in highly unusual and challenging times, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought huge loss, uncertainty and change to society. It has also brought into even sharper focus the vital importance of the civil registration system and of the statistics and analyses that we produce on a range of issues. As a result our statistics continue to shape and inform public policy and debate. This year, perhaps more than ever, we have seen an increase in demand for our statistics, analysis and advice. In response to the pandemic our weekly publication of COVID-19 statistics has played a key role in supporting everyone’s understanding of the spread and impact of the virus.

COVID-19 has also brought significant personal and professional changes for our people at NRS. I am immensely proud of the ways in which colleagues have risen to the challenge, delivering services innovatively and differently and responding to the changing needs and priorities for registration and statistical analysis.

We have included a chapter at the end of the report, which describes the significant changes that have been made to the registration service, delivered in close partnership with our colleagues in Local and Central Government, in response to the pandemic. A complete reconfiguration of registration services has taken place across the country to protect the integrity of the system, while safeguarding public health. These revised provisions have worked extremely well, enabling registrars to obtain the required information and complete registration by phone or electronically. I particularly want to thank our registration services staff for the significant changes in working patterns, including operating a 7 day service for a number of months during the height of the pandemic.

With significantly increased numbers of deaths being registered, it was vital for the registration service to focus its energies on registering deaths and still-births. Consequently, NRS took the decision to postpone birth registrations during the initial period of the lockdown. The registration of marriage and civil partnerships was also temporarily suspended. More recently we have worked with Local Government and stakeholders to allow marriage and birth registration to recommence within the boundaries of current public health guidance.

While a focus on COVID-19 has been our major challenge we have continued to respond to interest in the wider statistics and analytical projections that we produce. Trends in death rates, our growing and ageing population, and changes in household sizes are all providing insights not only into the pandemic but also the future of Scotland’s population.

Each chapter provides a review of statistics, trends and analysis for 2019. We have added a new chapter which provides analysis of the deaths involving COVID-19 during March to September 2020. Together, these provide a picture of Scotland prior to the pandemic and a summary of the spread and impact of COVID-19 on mortality across Scotland.

For 2019, our statistics also show a number of ‘first on record’ results. The population of Scotland is at a record high at 5.46 million, with the rate of population growth increasing following two years of slow growth. At just under 50,000, we recorded the lowest number of births since records began in 1855. The registration of marriages was also at an all-time low of just over 26,000. The number of households is growing faster than the population, with one-person households becoming the most common type in recent years.

We are living in unprecedented and uncertain times but I know that all at NRS are working together as a team and playing a significant role in informing the important decisions that affect the people of Scotland, now and in the future.

Paul Lowe Signature

Paul Lowe
Registrar General and Chief Executive
National Records of Scotland

Paul Lowe Photograph

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Key Messages

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Deaths Involving COVID-19