National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future


Drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2016

Tuesday, 15 Aug 2017
Demograpgy news release image

A total of 867 drug-related deaths were registered in Scotland in 2016, according to statistics published today by the National Records of Scotland. This is the largest number in a series which starts at 1996, 161 (23%) more than in 2015, and more than double the figure for 2006 (which was 421).

The statistics also show that:

  • Males accounted for 68% of the drug-related deaths in 2016.
  • In 2016, there were 327 drug-related deaths of people aged 35-44 (38% of all drug-related deaths), 213 deaths of 45-54 year olds (25%) and 199 drug-related deaths in the 25-34 age-group (23%).
  • The NHS Board areas which accounted for most of the 867 drug-related deaths in 2016 were:
    • Greater Glasgow & Clyde – 257 (30%);
    • Lothian – 128 (15%);
    • Lanarkshire – 113 (13%); and
    • Ayrshire & Arran – 85 (10%). 
  • Of the 867 drug-related deaths in 2016, opiates or opioids were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 765 deaths (88% of the total), including heroin and/or morphine in the case of 473 deaths (55%) and methadone in the case of 362 deaths (42%). Benzodiazepines (for example diazepam and etizolam) were implicated in, or potentially contributed to, 426 deaths (49%). These figures are higher than in any previous year.
  • Scotland’s figures imply a drug-death rate (relative to the number of people aged 15 to 64) higher than those reported for all the EU countries (though there are issues of coding, coverage and under-reporting in some countries – refer to Annex G of the publication, which provides information about drug-death rates for other countries), and a drug-death rate (per head of population) that is roughly two and a half times that of the UK as a whole.
  • Annex E of the publication provides information about deaths which involved so-called New Psychoactive Substances (NPSs), including their definition for the purposes of these figures. On that basis, in 2016:
    • There were 286 deaths in which NPSs were implicated, or potentially contributed to, the cause of death – but just four of them were believed to have been caused by NPSs alone;
    • Almost all (281) of those deaths are included in the 867 drug-related deaths referred to earlier (they are counted under that definition either because the person had also taken a controlled substance or because the NPS itself was one).

The full publication Drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2016 is available on this website.


Famous Scots from the Past

Monday, 31 Jul 2017
Photo of vial of arsenic poison

Treasured artefacts displayed together for the first time.

A new National Records of Scotland exhibition will provide an insight into the fascinating lives of four of Scotland’s most renowned historical figures over the next month.

Poison bottles from an infamous Victorian murder trial; a childhood letter sent by Mary Queen of Scots; documents from construction of the Forth Bridge and the Parish Register entry for Robert Burns’ irregular marriage are just some of the items to be displayed at General Register House from tomorrow as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.   

The never-before exhibited treasures from the national archive include:

  • No Bells for the Bard – The irregular marriage of Robert Burns and Jean Armour, 1788; 
  • Correspondence of a Queen – The earliest letter written by a young Mary, Queen of Scots, around 1550; 
  • The Man Who Built the Bridge – Photographs and documents from the construction of the Forth Bridge, Sir William Arrol’s world-famous project, 1880s; and 
  • The Trial That Scandalised Scotland – Poison bottles, love-letters and other productions from the shocking murder trial of Glasgow socialite Madeleine Smith, 1857. 

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

"These items offer an insight into the personal lives of some of the great characters of Scotland’s past, and tell us more about our rich history and heritage. The exhibition is a fascinating contribution to the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology."

Tim Ellis, Chief Executive, NRS, said: "This exhibition is an excellent opportunity to view just part of the wealth of historical materials held by National Records of Scotland, specially selected by our archivists to intrigue both first-time visitors and regular customers."

Notes to Editors

Famous Scots from the Past will run from 1 August to 1 September at General Register House, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh – Fringe Venue 502.

Media contact: Ross Truslove, Tel. 0131 535 1382.


Scotland’s Population - Registrar General publishes annual review of demographic trends

Wednesday, 2 Aug 2017
Demography new release image

National Records of Scotland (NRS) today published Scotland’s Population 2016 – the Registrar General’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends, including a summary infographic booklet.

The Annual Review has been published every year since 1855 and paints a picture of a changing Scotland. It highlights demographic data published over the year including about population, life expectancy, migration, households and housing.

Tim Ellis, the Registrar General of Scotland, said:

“Scotland’s population has grown 5% over the last decade to a record 5.4 million. The majority of this growth has been due to migration, as natural change (births minus deaths) has not contributed significantly to Scotland’s population growth.

"In the year to 30 June 2016, around 32,000 more people came to Scotland than left. Of these, 23,000 people were from overseas and 9,000 people were from the rest of the UK. More than half of those who came to Scotland from the rest of the UK or overseas are between 18 and 32 years old.

“Scotland’s population has continued to age over the past decade, with the greatest increases in the population in the older age groups. Over the next 25 years, there is a projected increase of 28% in the number of pensioners in Scotland, compared to an increase of just 1% in the number of people of working age. This has implications for funding allocations, tax revenues, pensions, education, health and social care provision.”

The report also includes new data about births, adoptions, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships registered in Scotland in 2016. It shows:

  • 54,488 births were registered in Scotland in 2016, 1.1% fewer births than in 2015 and the lowest annual total since 2005.
  • The average age of mothers has increased to 30.3 compared with 26.0 in 1975. The average age of fathers has increased from 28.4 in 1975 to 32.9 in 2016.
  • 56,728 deaths were registered in Scotland in 2016, 1.5% fewer than in 2015.
  • Deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have more than doubled since 2000 and have now overtaken deaths from cerebrovascular disease. This is partly because people are living longer, and fewer people are dying from other conditions such as circulatory diseases. However, the single biggest cause of death is still cancer, which has risen by 6% between 2000 and 2016.
  • There were 29,229 marriages registered in Scotland in 2016. Of these, 998 were same-sex marriages.

The following have been released today:


Births, deaths & other vital events, 2017 Q1

Wednesday, 14 Jun 2017
Demography news release image

Provisional figures for vital events registered in Scotland during the first quarter of 2017 were published today by National Records of Scotland.

The statistics show 13,279 births, 15,711 deaths and 3,578 marriages were registered between January and March.

At 13,279, the number of births registered was 28 (0.2 per cent) fewer than in the same period of 2016 and the lowest quarter one total since 2003. The total number of quarter one births fell to a low of around 12,400 in 2002. It then rose to around 15,100 in 2008 and has been below 14,000 since 2013.

At 15,711, the number of deaths registered was 223 (1.4 per cent) more than in the same period of 2016. Over the past decade the number of deaths in the first quarter fell from 15,820 in 2007 to a recent low of 13,959 in 2014. Quarter 1 of 2015 had an unusually high number of deaths (16,425) and although the 2016 and 2017 figures have decreased from this level, they still represent higher than average (for the decade) first quarter totals at 15,488 and 15,711 respectively.

Compared with the first quarter of 2016, the number of deaths from respiratory system disease fell by 10.4 per cent to 2,090 and deaths from cerebrovascular disease fell by 3.8 per cent to 1,100. Deaths from coronary heart disease fell by 1.5 per cent to 1,786 and there were 4,133 deaths from cancer (an increase of 1.9 per cent). There was an increase of 30.9 per cent in the number of deaths from Alzheimer’s Disease (648) and the number of deaths from dementia rose by 17.9 per cent to 1,229 (although part of this increase will be due to the change in cause of death coding software – refer to the paragraph starting From January 2017 below for more details).

Over the longer term, deaths from coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease have decreased considerably whilst the number of deaths from cancer and respiratory disease has risen slightly.  There has been a relatively large increase in the number of deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease with such deaths now accounting for around 10 per cent of all deaths compared to 5 per cent a decade ago.

The provisional figures also show there were 3,578 marriages in total, 66 more than during the first quarter of 2016 (a rise of 1.9 per cent).

There were 144 same-sex marriages, a fall of 11 (7.1 per cent) compared with the same period of 2016. Twenty one (14.6 per cent) of the same sex marriages registered in the first quarter were changes from civil partnerships.

There were 10 civil partnerships (four male and six female), two fewer than during the first quarter of 2016.

The full publication, Births, deaths and other vital events - quarterly figures, including figures for NHS Boards and local authority areas, is available  on this website.

From January 2017, NRS has introduced new software for coding the cause of death. The impact on the figures is relatively minor but has led to an increase in deaths coded to dementia and Alzheimer’s and a decrease in deaths coded to respiratory diseases. It should be noted that deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s were rising before the new software was introduced, but the impact of the software change further increases deaths from these causes.  More information can be found in the paper ‘The Impact of the Implementation of IRIS Software for ICD-10 Cause of Death Coding on Mortality Statistics in Scotland’ on this website.

Figures are provisional as NRS may receive further information (e.g. from Procurators Fiscal following their investigations into certain deaths) which may lead to the figures being revised. Figures for a specific year are finalised when the annual vital events reference tables are published in August of the following year.


Scotland’s Household numbers continue to rise

Wednesday, 14 Jun 2017
Demography news release image

The number of households in Scotland has continued to increase to 2.45 million in 2016, according to figures published today by National Records of Scotland (NRS) in 'Estimates of Households and Dwellings in Scotland, 2016'. Households are single people or groups of people living together.

Over the last ten years the number of households in Scotland has grown by around 157,000 (seven per cent). The number of households has increased in every council area over the last ten years, with the greatest relative increases occurring in Orkney Islands and Highland. The growth in households is partly due to the rising population, but also because people are increasingly living alone, or with fewer other people. Households consisting of only one person are now the most common type in Scotland. Over a third of households are single person households, and nearly 900,000 people are living alone (Scottish Household Survey 2015, figure below).

Image showing the change in the make up of households as described above

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

“The average household in Scotland has been getting smaller for several decades. This is partly due to changes in the way we live, and partly because the number of older people in the population has been rising. Older people are more likely to live alone, so as the number of older people has increased, the average size of households has decreased. However, the fall in household sizes appears to have slowed since the economic downturn in 2007. This may be due to factors such as decreased house building and more young adults living with their parents instead of forming their own households.”

According to the estimates published today, there were 2.58 million dwellings in Scotland in 2016. Three per cent (79,100 dwellings) were empty, and a further one per cent (26,100 dwellings) were second homes. Empty and second homes are concentrated in different parts of the country. For example, remote rural areas have a higher percentage of empty and second homes than urban areas.

The full publication Estimates of Households and Dwellings in Scotland, 2016 is available on this website.

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


Scotland's Population is Increasing

Thursday, 27 Apr 2017
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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
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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:



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