National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

91% of Scotland’s population live in 2% of its land area

91% of Scotland’s population live in 2% of its land area

Thursday, 31 Mar 2022
demography news release image

New statistics from the National Records of Scotland help us understand the changing population of our settlements and localities.

Published today, the report “Population Estimates for Settlements and Localities in Scotland, Mid-2020” gives population statistics for the built-up areas of 500 people or more across Scotland.

Information from this report helps give greater understanding of the population of local communities and informs government policy and legislation.

The key points of the report are:

91% of Scotland’s population lived in settlements and localities, which accounted for 2.3% of Scotland’s total land area.

There were 514 settlements in Scotland in mid-2020. This is 5 fewer than in 2016, due to some settlements merging or falling below the threshold of 500 people.

The population of Scotland living in settlements was 4,974,670. The population living outside settlements was 491,330.

The largest settlement in Scotland was Greater Glasgow with a population of 1,028,220. Nearly 1 in 5 people living in Scotland in mid-2020 lived in Greater Glasgow.

Almost all of Glasgow City’s and Dundee City’s population lived in a settlement (99.8% in both). In contrast, less than a third of Na h-Eileanan Siar’s population lived in a settlement (29.4%).

The full publication “Population Estimates for Settlements and Localities in Scotland, Mid-2020”, together with an infographic, is available on the NRS website.


NRS uses information about postcodes (some 140,000 in Scotland) to define “settlements” and “localities” to approximate built-up areas.

Settlements are defined as groups of adjacent, densely populated postcode areas that have a combined population of 500 people or more.

Some settlements are divided into localities, to reflect the areas that are more easily identifiable as the towns and cities of Scotland.

Statistics from this report feed into the production of the Scottish Government’s Urban Rural Classification which provides a consistent way of defining urban and rural areas across Scotland based on settlement population size and accessibility.

There is more information on settlements and localities on the NRS website.

Media enquiries should be directed to:
Donna Green
NRS Communications
Tel: 07775-027-380
Email: [email protected]

Further information about the statistics is available from:
NRS Customer Services
Email: [email protected]