Population: current and projected

Note: We have based these facts on the latest available data. Some of the statistics (for example, marriages) are likely to change dramatically in 2020/21 because of the impact of Covid-19.

General population

5.46 million people live in Scotland (the most ever). The rate of population growth increased in the year to mid-2019 following two years of slowed growth. Deaths have outnumbered births for the fifth consecutive year. The recent population increase is due to migration.

National Records of Scotland. October 2020 update. Scotland's Population 2019. The Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends. [Accessed January 2021].

Age

Around one in five (21%) people are 19 and under. Just under one in five are over 65 (19%); and three in five (60%) are aged 20 to 64; (estimated June 2019).

National Records of Scotland. October 2020 update. Scotland's Population 2019. The Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends. [Accessed January 2021].

The median age is 42: around two years more than the UK average.

Office for National Statistics. June 2020. Population estimates for the UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland: mid-2019. [Accessed January 2021].

Gender

On Census Day 2011 the population was estimated to be 5,295,403, with more women (2,728,000 or 51.5%) than men (2,567,400 or 48.5%).

Scotland’s Census

Ethnicity

In 2011, 84% of Scotland’s population reported their ethnicity as ‘White: Scottish’ and a further 8% as ‘White: Other British’. Together, minority ethnic groups and white non-British groups (which include ‘White: Irish’, ‘White: Polish’, ‘White: Gypsy/ Traveller’ and ‘White: Other white’) made up 8% of the total population.

The percentage of people in Scotland from minority ethnic groups doubled to 4% by 2011, up from 2% in 2001.

The Asian population is the largest minority ethnic group (3% of the population or 141,000 people). Within this, Pakistani is the largest individual category, accounting for 1% of the total population. The African, Caribbean or Black groups made up 1% of the population of Scotland in 2011. Mixed or multiple ethnic groups represented 0.4% (20,000) and other ethnic groups 0.3% (14,000) of the total population.

The proportion of the population reported as belonging to a minority ethnic group varied by council area. The highest figures were in four council areas of the large cities: in Glasgow City it was 12%, in the City of Edinburgh and in Aberdeen City it was 8%, and in Dundee City it was 6%.

In 2011, of the 1.5 million households containing more than one person, 84% (1.3 million) contained members who shared the same ethnic group. The other 16% of households included multiple ethnic groups.

Scotland’s Census

Country of birth and arrival in the UK

The 2011 census found that 93% (4.9 million) of people in Scotland were born within the UK: 83% were born in Scotland.

Of the 7% (369,000) of people in Scotland on census day in 2011 who were not born in the UK, a majority (55%) had arrived in the UK between 2004 and March 2011. The great majority (89%) of the population born outside the UK arrived in the UK aged under 35; this pattern was generally reflected across all ethnic groups. 55,000 people were born in Poland (accounting for 15% of all those born outside the UK) making this the third most common country of birth after Scotland and England and ahead of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Wales. The next most common country of birth outside the UK was India with 23,000 (6% of all those born outside the UK).

Scotland’s Census

Births

49,863 births were recorded in 2019: the lowest number ever recorded. Since 2015, there have been more deaths than births each year.

73% of births in Scotland were to mothers born in Scotland.

A further 9% were born in the rest of the UK and 8% elsewhere in the European Union (EU), including 5% from the countries which joined the EU in 2004 or later (the largest number were to mothers born in Poland).

Commonwealth countries were the birthplace of 5% of mothers, including 3% from the Indian sub-continent. In the cases where the father’s country of birth was known, 83% had been born in the UK, including 73% who were born in Scotland.

In 17% (8,079) of births in 2019, neither parent was born in Scotland, including 12% (5,864) of births where neither parent was born in the UK. These figures compare to 14% and 9% respectively in 2009. These statistics consider only the births for which both the mother’s and the father’s countries of birth were known (47,713 out of 49,863).

National Records of Scotland. October 2020 update. Scotland's Population 2019. The Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends. [Accessed January 2021].

Deaths

The number of deaths registered in 2019 was 58,108, a decrease of 0.7% on the number in 2018. This represented the second highest annual total since 1999, which might be expected, given Scotland’s ageing population. The age-standardised death rate (which accounts for this) decreased consistently between 1999 and 2014, but has not changed much since. This suggests mortality rates have stopped improving.

(The population has been growing and ageing in recent years, and this affects the number of deaths. A larger population with a greater proportion of older people is likely to lead to more deaths each year. To account for this, ‘age-standardised death rates’ adjust for changes in the age structure of the population and show what the trend would be if the population had remained stable.)

National Records of Scotland. October 2020 update. Scotland's Population 2019. The Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends. [Accessed January 2021].

Changing population

People now live significantly longer than in the past, and have fewer children. So, Scotland’s population is getting older.

Until the 1970s, there were far more births than deaths each year in Scotland, but this gap then began closing. Since 2015, there have been more deaths than births each year. This gap widened to 8,245 in 2019.

There has been the largest percentage decrease in the population aged 0 to 15. This is because there have been fewer births every year since 2009.

Scotland’s population is projected to continue to age over the 25 years from 2018 to 2043.

National Records of Scotland. October 2020 update. Scotland's Population 2019. The Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends. [Accessed January 2021].

Migration has been the main element of population growth in Scotland for the past 19 years.

In the year to mid-2019, 30,200 more people moved to Scotland than left. This is an increase in net migration following two years of lower levels.

In 2019, there were approximately 388,000 non-British nationals living in Scotland, accounting for 7% of the population. Of these 388,000 people, 60% were EU nationals and 40% were non-EU nationals.

It is likely that there will be a decrease in EU nationals following the UK’s exit from the European Union in 2020.

National Records of Scotland. October 2020 update. Scotland's Population 2019. The Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends. [Accessed January 2021].