National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future


Scotland's Population is Increasing

Thursday, 27 Apr 2017
News release image

Scotland’s population continued to increase between 2015 and 2016.

Statistics published today by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) show that the estimated population of Scotland was 5,404,700 at 30 June 2016, which is the highest level recorded.

The figures show a rise of 31,700 (0.6%) people over the year since 30 June 2015.

Why has Scotland’s population increased?

The increase in Scotland’s population over the last year has been driven by migration. Migration to Scotland exceeded migration from Scotland by 31,700 people. This included a net increase of 22,900 people from overseas and 8,800 from the rest of the UK.

The number of deaths exceeded the number of births by 800, while other changes (such as in the prison population, and changes in the number of armed forces stationed in Scotland) resulted in an increase of 800 people.

Image showing why Scotland's population has increased

How do the figures compare with the previous year?

The most recent increase in Scotland’s population of 31,700 (0.6%) compares with an increase of 25,400 (0.5%) in the previous year to 30 June 2015.

The main reason for the higher population increase is that net migration to Scotland increased from 28,000 in 2014-15 to 31,700 in 2015-16.

Natural change (births minus deaths) resulted in a loss of 800 people in the year to 30 June 2016, compared with a loss of 2,000 in the previous year. The year-on-year change was driven by 1,800 fewer deaths, partially offset by 600 fewer births.

The full publication Mid-2016 population estimates Scotland is available on this website.

An infographic and data visualisation are available for this publication on this website.

Today NRS have also published Demographic and Census profiles of European Economic Area (EEA) born residents in Scotland. These provide information and  key statistics on EEA born residents across Scotland’s council areas.


Free Exhibition of Scottish Charters is now on at General Register House

Tuesday, 18 Apr 2017
Scribes and Royal Authority: Scotland's Charters 1100-1250

For the first time precious examples from two of Scotland’s most important collections of medieval charters are going on show in National Records of Scotland.

 The charters from Holyrood Abbey and Melrose Abbey reveal how government developed in the period between 1100 and 1250, as part of the emergence in Western Europe of government as we recognise it today. These charters are but a tiny sample of what survives from the period and they offer a glimpse into the work of Scotland’s medieval scribes. This exhibition investigates how changes in the handwriting of the royal and monastic scribes reflect these crucial changes in charters that granted lands and rights.

This exhibition is a partnership with the University of Glasgow and is part of 'Models of Authority, Scottish Charters and the Emergence of Government, 1100-1250', a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project examined the script and physical appearance of these charters, closely analysing the diplomatic and palaeographic features as evidence in the development of the perception of royal authority and governance during a crucial period in Scotland’s history. Professor Dauvit Broun of the University of Glasgow said:

"This exhibition contains some of the earliest surviving documents produced in Scotland. These are well known to historians, but the scribes who wrote them are often overlooked. This exhibition is the first to focus on the scribes themselves, and their role in creating a new medium for government and lordship."

 Charter by King Maclcolm IV, National Records of Scotland (GD45/13/224)

Charter by King Maclcolm IV, National Records of Scotland (GD45/13/224)

You can read more about this project and its findings at You can also find further details on each of the charters on display in the booklet ‘Scribes and Royal Authority: Early Charters from the National Records of Scotland’, on sale in the NRS shop.

The free exhibition will be on display in the remarkable Matheson Dome in General Register House from 5 April to 17 May 2017, Monday to Friday 09:00am-4:30pm. Closed for public holidays on 14 & 17 April and 1 May.


Household numbers projected to rise in Scotland’s National Parks and around its biggest cities

Wednesday, 12 Apr 2017
Demography news release image

Figures published today by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) show that the number of households is projected to rise around Scotland’s biggest cities, and within its two National Parks.

The number of households is projected to grow in the regions around Scotland’s biggest cities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, where around three quarters of the population of Scotland live. The projected growth over the next 25 years ranges from 12 per cent in Glasgow & Clyde Valley to 24 per cent in Aberdeen City & Shire.

The projected growth in household numbers is lower in the two National Parks, at six per cent for Cairngorms National Park and one per cent for Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park.

Scotland’s population is ageing, and older people are more likely to live in smaller households or alone. By 2039, the projections indicate that at least 29 per cent of households will be headed by people aged 65 or over in each of these areas, with the highest figures being in the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park (51 per cent of households).

Tim Ellis, the Chief Executive of National Records of Scotland, said:

“Today’s figures show a projected rise in the number of households around Scotland’s four biggest cities, where around three quarters of the population lives. Although the number of households is also expected to rise in the two National Parks, the rise is much lower.

“These statistics play an important role helping us predict where people will be living over the next 25 years, allowing policy makers to reach decisions about housing and services in Scotland.”

The full publication Household Projections for Scotland’s Strategic Development Plan Areas and National Parks (2014-based) is available on this website.


Scottish Electorate numbers are rising

Thursday, 16 Mar 2017
Demography news release image

The number of people registered to vote in elections in Scotland has increased in 2016, according to the latest National Statistics published today by National Records of Scotland. This increase follows the drop in numbers seen in 2015 due to the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration (IER).

The increase is seen across the electorates for Local Government and Scottish Parliament, the UK Parliament as well as the European Parliament.

As at 1 December 2016:

  • The number of UK Parliamentary electors in Scotland rose by 33,100 (0.8 per cent) to 3.9 million, compared to December 2015.
  • The number of registered Local Government and Scottish Parliament electors in Scotland rose by 59,500 (1.5 per cent) to 4.1 million.
  • There has been an increase in the number of overseas electors which doubled to 15,200 (up 97 per cent). This increase could be attributed to an increased number of people registering to vote in the EU Referendum in June 2016.
  • The number of 16 and 17 year old electors has also increased by 62.6 per cent to 79,600 since last year. Due to the timing of the legislation change and the timing of the canvass, lowering of the voting age change had limited effect on electorate numbers in 2015. However, as expected, an increase in electorate numbers is more evident in 2016. 

The next Local Government election in Scotland will take place on 4 May 2017. The deadline for registration to vote in the Local Government election is Monday 17 April 2017.

The full publication Electoral Statistics for Scotland, as at 1 December 2016 is available on this website.


Babies’ first names, most common surnames and the ethnicity of people who died

Tuesday, 14 Mar 2017
Demography news release image

National Records of Scotland (NRS) today published:

  • the full list of first names given to babies whose births were registered in 2016
  • the most common surnames in the Birth, Marriage and Death registers for 2016
  • information about the ethnicity of people whose deaths were registered in Scotland.

The babies’ first names publication is the full list of first forenames registered in 2016 and supersedes the top 100 lists published on 20 December, which covered births registered up to 3 December 2016. The most popular names for girls and boys remain unchanged (Olivia and Jack), but the ranking of some names in the boys’ top ten has changed. 

The three top surnames in the Birth, Marriage and Death registers for 2016 were Smith, Brown and Wilson. These have been the most common surnames recorded in the registers for at least 40 years, based on five-yearly analysis going back to 1975.

NRS has also published material about its work to collect details of the ethnicity of people whose deaths are registered in Scotland. From 2012, this information has been collected on a voluntary basis. NRS’s report concludes that the data are not (at present) suitable for calculating reliable mortality rates for most ethnicities, and that NRS may be able to improve the quality in future.

Further information can be found in the following sections on this website:


Births, Deaths and other Vital Events in Scotland: Preliminary figures for 2016 released

Wednesday, 8 Mar 2017
Demographics news release image

Provisional figures for births, deaths, adoptions, marriages and civil partnerships registered during 2016 are published today by the National Records of Scotland. 

The statistics show that 54,488 births, 56,728 deaths and 29,229 marriages were registered in 2016.

54,488 births were registered in the year – 612 (1.1 per cent) fewer than in 2015. This is the lowest number of births recorded since 2005 and continues the general decline in number of births since the most recent peak of 60,041 in 2008.

At 56,728, the number of deaths registered in 2016 was 851 (1.5 per cent) lower than in 2015. This is the second highest number of deaths recorded since 2003 (2015 was highest) although due to the growing population, the death rate (10.6 deaths per 1,000 population) is lower than it was in 2008 (10.7).

Deaths from cancer fell by 1.3 per cent to 15,890, deaths from coronary heart disease fell by 6.9 per cent to 6,651, and there were 4,143 deaths from cerebrovascular disease (a fall of 3.7 per cent). There was a 5.2 per cent decrease (to 7,271) in deaths from respiratory diseases. Deaths from dementia fell by 9.0 per cent to 3,603 and deaths from Alzheimer’s Disease rose by 10.5 per cent to 1,963.

The number of marriages fell by 462 compared to 2015 and levels remain historically low. Of the 29,229 marriages registered in 2016, 999 involved same sex couples and, of the same sex marriages, 174 were changes from previous civil partnerships.

There were 70 civil partnerships (42 male and 28 female), six more than in 2015.

The full publication 2016 Births, Deaths and Other Vital Events - Preliminary Annual Figures is available on this website.

Infographics Births and deaths Scotland, 2016 and Marriages and civil partnerships Scotland, 2016 accompany this publication and are also available on this website.


Scotland’s household numbers projected to rise with most growth among older people

Tuesday, 31 Jan 2017
Demography news release image

Statistics published today by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) show that the number of households in Scotland is projected to continue to increase, rising by 345,000 between 2014 and 2039.

The number of households headed by someone aged 70 or over is projected to increase by 65 per cent, compared to an increase of just two per cent for those under 70. Older people are more likely to live alone than younger people, and the number of people aged 70 and over living alone is projected to increase by 60 per cent over the next 25 years, to 150,000 men and 260,000 women. The gender difference reflects women’s greater life expectancy and tendency to outlive their partners.

Tim Ellis, National Records of Scotland (NRS) Chief Executive and Registrar General, said:

“The figures published today by National Records of Scotland show a projected 345,000 extra households in Scotland in 2039 compared to 2014. This is partly because Scotland’s population is projected to increase in this period, but also because of our ageing population. Older people are more likely to live alone than younger people, and as more people live alone or in smaller households, the number of households will rise at a faster rate than the population.”

Projected number of households in Scotland by age of head of household, 2014 and 2039

Image showing number of households by age of the head of household with the largest increase in the older age groups

Household numbers are projected to increase in almost every Council area over the next 25 years. The largest projected increases are in Midlothian and the City of Edinburgh. Household numbers are projected to fall in just three Council areas (Inverclyde, Argyll and Bute and Na h-Eileanan Siar).

The full publication Household Projections for Scotland, 2014-based is available on this website.

An infographic overview and an interactive visualisation are also available on the website.



Love and War: Birth, Death and Marriage Records Released Today

Thursday, 5 Jan 2017
Photograph of a couple married in 1941

The annual release of births, deaths and marriages on ScotlandsPeople by the National Records of Scotland includes digital images of 110,000 birth entries from 1916, more than 47,000 marriage entries from 1941 and 64,000 death entries from 1966. They are now available for members of the public to search, view and save.

Among the notable Scots whose births were registered in 1916 are Jessie Kesson, the author of ‘Another Time, Another Place’ and ‘The White Bird Passes’, and Jack Milroy, the comedian who partnered Ricki Fulton on stage. We also explore the battles and heroes who inspired babies’ names during the First World War.

From the marriages registered in 1941 we feature the story behind the wedding photograph belonging to a ScotlandsPeople user, and a contrasting tale of a Clydebank couple whose marriage was cut short by war. Of the 64,000 deaths in 1966 we have selected Alexander Carrick, one of Scotland’s leading monumental sculptors.

Learn more about their stories on the ScotlandsPeople website.

Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

"The releases of these records give us a richer understanding of Scotland’s story and our people. The marriage certificates from the early '40s in particular provide further insight into the consequences of the Second World War, and how it affected the things we take for granted today.

"I’d encourage anyone interested in finding out more about their local history or genealogy to have a look at the wealth of records now available as part of our new ScotlandsPeople website. No matter where you are in the world, you can instantly find out more about your own personal story."

Every year on 1 January new data collected by the Registrar General for Scotland becomes available to the public online via the ScotlandsPeople website. The records can also be searched at the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh and at local family history centres in Glasgow, Kilmarnock, Alloa, Hawick and Inverness. The statutory registers are opened to the public online when their closure periods end: 100 years for birth records, 75 years for marriage records and 50 years for death records.

Since the new site launched in September 2016 users have been able to search statutory record indexes including birth, death and marriage certificates for free. Users are now only charged if they wish to view or download a record image.


Scottish Cabinet Papers from the Year 2001 Opened to the Public

Sunday, 1 Jan 2017
Image - Jack McConnell

 From 1 January 2017, Scottish Cabinet papers and other government records opened for the first time at National Records of Scotland show details about the operation of the Scottish Cabinet in the year 2001.

That year saw the appointment of a new First Minister for Scotland when Jack McConnell took over from Henry McLeish, who resigned as First Minister in November 2001. The Scottish Cabinet minutes reflect the transfer of authority and other matters of national interest. They include the outbreak of the Foot and Mouth epidemic in cattle and its impact on farmers, particularly in Dumfries and Galloway, considerations to host the Euro 2008 football championship in Scotland, and proposals for free social care arrangements for the elderly.

The files form part of the annual release of archived information by Scottish Government, which since 2009 has proactively opened almost 14,000 files at 15 years. This adds a considerable amount of information to what is already publicly available from the year 2001, due to a policy of proactive release.

In welcoming the latest file releases, Tim Ellis, Chief Executive of NRS and Keeper of the Records of Scotland, said 

 “Preserving Scottish Government records and making them available to the public is a key part of our role at the National Records of Scotland, and this annual release of information can give us a fascinating insight into our recent history.

In addition to a change of First Minister, 2001 saw considerable activity across a wide range of policy areas.  I have no doubt that the papers now available will be very interesting reading to a great many people.”

Following the New Year public holiday, the newly opened files will be available to view in our public search room from Wednesday 4 January.  The Cabinet files will be available in digital format. Many of the other paper files can be seen in January without the need to pre-order, though some are held off-site and will require ordering in advance. Details can be found in the file lists below.

The full list of files released in 2017 can be viewed in PDF. (377 KB PDF)

Please note that you will need a current reader’s ticket to see files in our search room. See how to obtain a reader’s ticket, and what preparations to make, in the preparing to visit page of our website.

Subscribe to RSS - 2017