National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Main Points

Main Points

This report describes variants on the "principal projections" which the Registrar General regards as the most likely level of Scotland’s population in the next 25 years. The variants are based on different assumptions about the three main factors – fertility, life expectancy and migration.

The key points in this report are:-

  • The future size of Scotland’s population is uncertain. Under the high and low assumptions of future fertility, life expectancy and migration, the total population of Scotland at 2031 would vary between 5.3 and 4.8 million. But under "extreme" combinations of these assumptions, the population could be as high as 5.6 million or as low as 4.6 million;

  • Future population growth is possible under the "high" population variant, the high migration variant, the high fertility variant and the high life expectancy variant, as well as the "young" projection to 2031;

  • What is more certain is that Scotland’s population is going to age.  In 2004, 16 per cent of the population were aged 65 and over. Even under the extreme "young" projection the percentage of the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 23 per cent by 2031. This trend is primarily a result of the existing age structure of Scotland’s population (which contains the baby boomers) and the long-term decline in fertility levels;

  • Under all the variants, the "dependency ratio" is projected to remain at around 550 to 600 dependents per 1,000 people of working age until 2021. It is only after 2021, and the completion of the change to women’s state pension age (and the baby boomers reaching state pension age), that the dependency ratio rises: ranging from 685 under the low fertility variant to 733 under the low migration variant. Even under the "extreme" combination assumptions of the “low dependency ratio” variant the dependency ratio will still rise to 648.

All statistical publications