National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Scotland’s population at record high, but population growth has slowed

Scotland’s population at record high, but population growth has slowed

Thursday, 25 Apr 2019
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Scotland’s population has continued to increase and now stands at a record high of 5.44 million, the largest population ever in Scotland for the ninth year running, according to statistics published today by the National Records of Scotland (NRS).

The figures published in the Mid-2018 Population Estimates for Scotland show that Scotland’s population grew by 13,300 people (0.2%) over the year to 30 June 2018.

Why has Scotland’s population increased?

Migration was the main reason for Scotland’s population increase with 20,900 more people coming to Scotland than leaving, from both overseas and the rest of the UK, over the year to mid-2018. In contrast, natural change (births minus deaths) did not contribute to Scotland’s population growth with 7,700 more deaths than births over the same period. This is the largest natural decrease on record.  

Although Scotland’s population increased by 0.2% over the year, the rate of population growth has slowed for the second year running. This is due to a reduction in overall net migration (down 3,000 people from the year to mid-2017 – predominantly due to more people leaving Scotland to move overseas), an increase in the number of deaths (2,700 more than the year to mid-2017) and fewer births (1,200 less than the year to mid-2017).

Paul Lowe, the Chief Executive of National Records of Scotland and Registrar General for Scotland, said:

 “Scotland’s population continued to increase over the year, with a record high of 5.44 million people now living in Scotland. Migration continues to be the main driver of Scotland’s population growth – with more people coming to Scotland than leaving.

Whilst the population has increased, the rate of population growth has slowed as a result of a reduction in net migration and more deaths than births in the last year. During this time we have seen a mixed picture regarding population growth with 18 of Scotland’s council areas seeing an increase in population compared to 14, mostly rural or island, council areas which experienced depopulation, three more than the previous year.”

An infographic summarising the key points of the NRS report and an interactive data visualisation comparing mid-year population estimates between Scottish council areas are available on the NRS website.