National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

City populations fall in latest estimates

City populations fall in latest estimates

Wednesday, 13 Jul 2022
demography news release image

Scotland’s largest cities saw their populations fall during the pandemic while some rural areas saw their populations rise, reversing long-term trends, according to new figures from National Records of Scotland.

The NRS Mid-Year Population Estimates for the year up to 30 June 2021 is the first report to cover a full year affected by the pandemic.

The most common moves within Scotland were from the largest cities; Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, to their neighbouring council areas. In addition, many rural areas saw an increase in people moving into the area. In some areas, such as Aberdeenshire and Argyll and Bute, the changes reversed the trend of several years of falling populations.

Esther Roughsedge, Head of Population and Migration Statistics at NRS, said:

“As well as people moving long term out of cities and into the surrounding areas, there may have been students who have moved back to their parents’ addresses temporarily during the pandemic. Another factor could be people who had previously moved updating their address with a GP to make sure they received their COVID-19 vaccination letters. Address information from GPs feeds into our migration estimates. Future reports will tell us if the areas which have gained population sustain those levels in the years ahead.” 

Overall, the report estimates that Scotland’s population was 5,479,900 at mid-2021 (30 June 2021). The population increased by 13,900 people (0.25%) in the year to that date which is a slower increase than in the five years before the pandemic.

There have been more deaths than births for the last seven years. In the latest year, deaths outnumbered births by the largest amount on record. This means that migration was the main driver of population growth over the latest year. More people moved to Scotland than left, as has been the case for the last two decades.

Esther Roughsedge added:

“We currently continue to see Scotland’s population rise, albeit more slowly than before the pandemic. However, our most recent projections looking ahead to 2045, published in January, show that if current trends in births, deaths and migration continue, Scotland’s population will start to fall by the end of this decade.”


The publication Mid-Year 2021 Population Estimates and interactive charts are available on our website.

Population estimates by administrative areas are available from mid-1981 onwards in the time series Table 3 on our website.

The following table shows the population change of council areas in Scotland from mid-2020 to mid-2021, ordered from highest percentage change to lowest.

Council Areas Population change Percentage change
Midlothian 1,530 1.6%
East Lothian 1,680 1.6%
Perth and Kinross 1,900 1.3%


2,630 1.1%
West Lothian 1,760 1.0%
Argyll and Bute 790 0.9%
Aberdeenshire 1,910 0.7%  
Moray 700 0.7%
Scottish Borders 780 0.7%
Orkney Islands 140 0.6%
South Lanarkshire 1,810 0.6%
East Renfrewshire 520 0.5%  
Na h-Eileanan Siar 140 0.5%
Clackmannanshire 250 0.5%
East Ayrshire 420 0.3%        
Dumfries and Galloway 500 0.3%
Renfrewshire 550 0.3%
Shetland Islands 70 0.3%
South Ayrshire 310 0.3%
Angus 300 0.3%
Fife 600 0.2%
East Dunbartonshire 150 0.1%         
Falkirk 140 0.1%
North Lanarkshire 260 0.1%
North Ayrshire -30 0.0%
Glasgow City -510 -0.1%
City of Edinburgh -1,150 -0.2%
Inverclyde -360 -0.5%
West Dunbartonshire -550 -0.6%
Stirling -610 -0.6%
Aberdeen City -1,630 -0.7%
Dundee City -1,100 -0.7%


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]