National Records of Scotland

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More marriages in Scotland

More marriages in Scotland

Tuesday, 27 Aug 2013
More marriages in Scotland

Final figures for births, deaths and other vital events registered in 2012

There were 30,534 marriages in Scotland last year, an increase of 4.8 per cent on the figure for 2011, the third consecutive annual increase. In addition, in 2012:

  • 58,027 births were registered – 563 (1.0 per cent) fewer than in 2011.
  • 54,937 deaths were registered – 1,276 (2.4 per cent) more than in 2011.
  • Deaths from cancer rose by 2.6 per cent to 15,864, deaths from ischaemic (coronary) heart disease fell by 1.2 per cent to 7,541, and there were 4,475 deaths from cerebrovascular disease (stroke), a drop of 2.6 per cent.
  • Alcohol-related deaths fell by 13 per cent to 1,080; there were 581 drug-related deaths, three fewer than in 2011; the estimated number of probable suicides fell; and deaths for which clostridium difficile was the underlying cause dropped from 70 to 60.

These are among the many figures for 2012 produced from registration records and published today by National Records of Scotland (NRS).

Commenting, Tim Ellis, Registrar General and Chief Executive of NRS, said:

"In recent years, there have been more births than deaths in Scotland. This was still the case in 2012, but the gap has narrowed again, with a slight decline in the number of births and a slight increase in the number of deaths.

"Despite its decline over the last four years, the birth rate in 2012 remained high relative to the first half of the 2000s. In historical terms, however, these figures are low compared to previous ‘baby boom’ years - for example, averages of over 100,000 per year in the early 1960s and 110,000 in the early 1920s.

"Although deaths rose in 2012, they are not high in historical terms. From the mid-1940s to the mid-1990s, there tended to be between 60,000 and 65,000 deaths per year, and larger numbers before then. There is usually some year-to-year fluctuation. Scotland recorded its lowest-ever annual total (53,661) in 2011, so an increase in the number registered in 2012 was not unexpected.

“In historic terms, the number of marriages in 2012 was relatively low, compared with averages of over 40,000 marriages per year in the early 1960s."

Key points in the figures published today


There were 58,027 births registered in Scotland in 2012, 563 (1.0 per cent) fewer than in 2011. This is the fourth year that the number of births has fallen (following increases in each of the previous six years).

The average age of mothers has increased from 27.7 in 1992 to 29.7 in 2012. Similarly, the average age of fathers has increased from 30.3 in 1992 to 32.5 in 2012.

In 2012, 51.3 per cent of babies were born to unmarried couples, the highest percentage ever recorded. This figure has risen in most years since the start of the 1970s, and exceeded 10 per cent in 1979, 20 per cent in 1986, 30 per cent in 1992, 40 per cent in 1999 and 50 per cent in 2008.

Some 85 per cent of mothers who gave birth in Scotland in 2012 were born in the UK, including 76 per cent born in Scotland. Seven per cent of mothers had been born elsewhere in the European Union (EU), including four per cent from the countries which joined the EU in 2004 (such as Poland).

Marriages and civil partnerships

There were 30,534 marriages in Scotland in 2012, 1,399 (4.8 per cent) more than in 2011. This was the third consecutive annual increase in the number of marriages, which reached its highest level since 2005.

The average age at which people marry for the first time has increased by around two years in the last 10 years, to 32.9 years for men and 31.0 years for women.

Just over half of all marriages (51 per cent) were civil ceremonies, carried out by a registrar – compared with just under one-third (31 per cent) in 1971.

The largest number of religious marriages were carried out by Church of Scotland ministers (5,508, or 18 per cent of all marriages), with clergy from the Roman Catholic Church carrying out 1,827 marriages (6 per cent of the total). Celebrants from the Humanist Society of Scotland, authorised to carry out marriages since 2005, officiated at 3,052 marriages (10 per cent of the total).

In 2012 there were 574 civil partnerships – 257 male couples and 317 female couples - 20 more than during 2011.


54,937 deaths were registered in 2012 – 1,276 (2.4 per cent) more than in the previous year. However, despite that rise, it was the fourth lowest number of deaths recorded in over 150 years. The number of deaths registered in 2011 (53,661) was the lowest annual total ever recorded. The total registered in 2012 was lower than the figures for 2008 (which was 55,700) and for many earlier years, going back to before the start of civil registration in 1855.

The main causes of deaths were:

  • cancer, which caused 15,864 deaths, 2.6 per cent more than in 2011, and 5.4 per cent more than in 2002;
  • ischaemic (coronary) heart disease, which caused 7,541 deaths, 1.2 per cent fewer than in 2011 and 36 per cent fewer than in 2002;
  • respiratory system diseases (such as pneumonia), which caused 7,168 deaths, 5.6 per cent more than in 2011 and 5.3 per cent more than in 2002; and
  • cerebrovascular disease (stroke), which caused 4,475 deaths, 2.6 per cent fewer than in 2011 and 33 per cent fewer than in 2002.

Over the longer-term, the percentage of deaths caused by ischaemic (coronary) heart disease dropped from 29 per cent in 1980-1982 to 14 per cent in 2012, and the percentage due to cerebrovascular disease (stroke) fell from 14 per cent to eight percent. The percentage of deaths caused by cancer rose from 22 per cent to 29 per cent.

The number of alcohol-related deaths fell by 167 (13 per cent) to 1,080 in 2012, the lowest annual total since 1997. The figure of 1,546 in 2006 was the largest so far recorded: since then, the trend appears to have been downward, with some year-to-year fluctuations.

There were 581 drug-related deaths in 2012, three (0.5 per cent) fewer than in 2011. This was the second highest number ever recorded, and 199 (52 per cent) more than in 2002. So far, the long-term trend has been upward, although it could be argued that the annual number of deaths might be levelling off.

At the start of 2011, the statistical definition of probable suicides changed. In 2012, the estimated number fell, by 1 per cent to 762 (on the old basis) or by 7 per cent to 830 (on the new basis). Earlier years' data show that the estimated number of probable suicides may fluctuate from year to year, with the impression of a slight downward trend from almost 900 (on the old basis) at the start of the new century.

In 2012, there were 60 deaths for which clostridium difficile was the underlying cause, 10 fewer than in 2011. Including deaths for which clostridium difficile was a contributory factor, there was a total of 158 deaths for which clostridium difficile was mentioned on the death certificate, 11 fewer than in 2011. The Vital Events Reference Tables can be viewed in full on the NRS website.

Statistics and commentary on deaths from particular causes (accidental deaths, alcohol-related deaths, Clostridium Difficile deaths, drug-related deaths, hypothermia deaths, MRSA deaths and probable suicides) and on age-standardised death rates are available via links which can be found on the Vital Events - Deaths page on the NRS website.

Further information on the Time-Series Tables are available on the NRS website:



Civil Partnerships