National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Birth rate the second lowest since records began

Birth rate the second lowest since records began

Tuesday, 28 Jun 2022
demography news release image

47,786 live births were registered in 2021. This was 2% higher than the previous year, but still the second lowest annual total since records began in 1855, according to figures released today by National Records of Scotland.

63,587 deaths were registered last year, 1% fewer than in 2020. There were 10%, or 5,827, excess deaths compared to the pre-pandemic five year average.

2021 also saw the highest infant death rate in ten years, with 3.9 infant deaths for every thousand live births increasing from last year’s rate of 3.1.

Julie Ramsay, Vital Events Statistician, said:

“15,801 fewer births than deaths were registered in 2021. The difference between births and deaths is described as natural change and Scotland has been in a period of negative natural change (more deaths than births) since 2015.

“Whilst the 2021 death figures  show a slight reduction on the year before, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still evident.  

“Births increased slightly but are still low in historical terms. The fertility rate increased slightly to 1.31 after falling to 1.29 last year, its lowest ever level. For a population to replace itself this figure needs to be around 2.1.”

There were just 11,831 marriages in 2020 compared to 26,007 in 2019, following restrictions on marriage ceremonies during the pandemic.

There were 24,284 marriages in 2021. This is more than double the number in the previous year but remains low in historic terms.  There were 819 same-sex marriages.

499 civil partnerships were registered in 2021, the highest number since 2013.  Since June 2021, mixed-sex couples have been able to form a civil partnership. 411  mixed-sex couples and 88 same-sex couples formed a civil partnership during 2021.

The publication Vital Events Reference Tables 2021 and an infographic are available on this website.


National Records of Scotland (NRS) is a non-ministerial department of the devolved Scottish Administration. It is responsible for producing statistics on Scotland’s population.

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]