National Records of Scotland

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Scotland's population projected to fall

Scotland's population projected to fall

Wednesday, 12 Jan 2022
demography news release image

New analysis by National Records of Scotland (NRS) projects that Scotland’s population will increase slightly to a peak of 5.48 million in 2028 before falling to 5.39 million by 2045. Currently 5.47 million people live in Scotland.

Should the past trends in births, deaths and migration seen in Scotland continue, the analysis projects that by 2045 there will be 200,000 fewer children (a fall of 22%) and 300,000 more people over 65 (an increase of 30%).

The new report has been compiled by National Records of Scotland (NRS), using data from the Office for National Statistics. It shows that if these projections were realised, Scotland’s population would fall by 1.5% over the next 25 years, whilst the UK population would grow by 5.8%. These latest projections for Scotland and the UK are both lower than previous projections. 

These are the first projections for a number of years to show Scotland’s population starting to fall in the next decade. The previous (2018-based) projections suggested that population growth could stall and then begin to fall after around 25 years.

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

“Birth rates have been falling steadily for a number of years. Lower birth rates are the main reason these projections are lower than previous ones.

“Life expectancy has stalled since 2012-2014 and COVID-19 has had some impact. But most of the projected change is due to longer-terms trends showing more deaths than births each year.

“As has been the case since mid-2001, more people are projected to move to Scotland than leave each year, but beyond 2028 this will no longer offset the gap between births and deaths. This is the main reason for these figures showing Scotland’s population peaking in the next decade before falling.”

Esther Roughsedge added:

“Projections look at what will happen if current and recent trends continue into the future.

“These statistics are a useful guide for those involved in planning services for the future. A fall in the number of children and increases in the number of older people will change the pattern of demand for services like schools, health and social care.”

The report Population Projection for Scotland (interim) 2020 based is available on the NRS website.


The National Records of Scotland (NRS) is responsible for producing statistics on Scotland’s population.

The report is available now on our website at this link: Population Projection for Scotland (interim) 2020 based.

Official statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff. General information about population statistics can be accessed in the About our Statistics section of the NRS website.

Media enquiries should be directed to:
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