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News Release

New Report Highlights Population
Issues Facing Scotland

30th October 2002

The Registrar General publishes his Annual Report today.

The report this year is in a new, more accessible, format which Registrar General, John Randall, says he hopes will spur a national debate on the issues affecting the Scottish population.

Mr Randall said:

"This annual report is much shorter than those of previous years, containing text and charts designed to bring out key trends and issues more clearly for a wider audience. It is important that policy makers are aware of the most recent trends, and take decisions on the wide range of policies which are affected by demographic change on an informed basis.
"There are indications that factors which have affected demographic change in Scotland for many decades may now be changing. For example, net emigration from Scotland in recent years has been much lower than in the 1960s or even the 1980s.

"And a declining birth rate means that deaths now exceed births and this is a major factor in explaining why Scotland's population has declined or increased less strongly than in other countries."

The report highlights the following

Declining population

  • In 2001, the population was 5,064,200 - two per cent less than twenty years ago.
  • Since reaching a peak in 1974, Scotland's population has been in slow decline, with some fluctuations. This decline is projected to continue.
  • Scotland is the only country within the UK with recent and projected declines in population and there are relatively few countries in the world with declining populations.

Ageing population

  • Scotland is getting older (and is projected to continue to get older). Half the population is aged over 38 and ten per cent is aged over 71. In 1951 the corresponding ages were 31 and 64.
  • The numbers of children have reached a new low. Despite losses through death and migration for people born in earlier years, the population aged under 1 is now lower than for any other single age up to 60.

Reducing net migration loss

  • Net migration out of Scotland has reduced considerably and in recent years the migration loss has been less than a quarter of what it was in the 1960s.
  • This conclusion stands despite the results of the recent 2001 Census which suggest that migration loss since 1981 has been higher than previously estimated, and is more likely to be weighted towards males and younger age groups than previously thought.
  • Moves between Health Board areas within the UK are highest for people in their twenties and thirties with large peaks in the student ages (18-22).

Low fertility

  • Birth rates in Scotland are lower than any other country in the UK, but are similar to the EU average.
  • Falling birth rates reflect the fact that women are having fewer children and having them later. As a consequence, average completed family size for women born after 1952 has fallen below two.

High mortality

  • Although death rates have fallen significantly in Scotland, death rates remain the highest in the UK and one of the highest in the EU.
  • Mortality rates are falling for both men and women, but male life expectancy at birth has remained five and a half years less than that for women over the last 50 years.

The report also contains statistics about specific aspects of population and vital events such as births, deaths and marriages registered in 2001.


  • There were 52,527 births registered in 2001, the lowest total since civil registration began in 1855.
  • 48 per cent of live births were to mothers aged over 30 compared to 23 per cent in 1981.
  • Over 43 per cent of live births in 2001 were born outside marriage

Stillbirths and infant deaths

  • There were 301 stillbirths and 290 infant deaths in 2001. - the stillbirth rate was 5.7 per 1,000 live and stillbirths, and the infant death rate was 5.5 per 1,000 live births. These are at historically low levels even though they remain above those in many other European countries.

Expectation of life

  • Males born in 2001 could expect to live to be 73.4 years while females could expect to live to 78.8 years.
  • The expectation for men and women aged 65 in 2001 was an additional 18.1 years for men and 15.0 years for women.


  • The total number of deaths registered in Scotland in 2001 was 57,382, 417 lower than 2000 and the lowest total since civil registration began in 1855.
  • The two most common causes of death in 2001 were cancer (26 per cent) and ischaemic heart disease (21 per cent).
  • Over the last ten years the number of deaths from ischaemic heart disease has fallen by 29 per cent compared with an increase of 2 per cent in deaths from cancer.


  • There were 30,058 marriages in Scotland in 2001.
  • The average age at first marriage continues to rise and was 31 years for men and 29 years for women, compared with 27 and 25.5 years in 1991.
  • Of those marrying in 2001 29 per cent had been married previously (27 per cent divorced and 2 per cent widowed).


  • There were 10,631 divorces in Scotland in 2001, the lowest number since 1982.
  • 80 per cent of divorces in 2001 were granted on grounds of non-cohabitation compared with 60 per cent ten years ago;
  • One half of the marriages dissolved in 2001 lasted more than 13 years.


  • There were 468 adoptions in 2001, the second lowest number since 1931 and 40 per cent lower than 10 years ago.

Notes For News Editors

  1. The Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends is available free from the General Register Office for Scotland and the GROS website. The detailed statistical tables which comprise the bulk of previous Annual Reports are available on the GROS website ( or by contacting Statistics Customer Services using our Contact Form.

  2. Throughout the report the 2001 mid-year population estimates are used as absolute values or as a base for calculating rates. These population estimates are based on results from the 2001 Census which were published on 30 September in 2001 Population Report.

  3. Some of the information in the report, particularly rates between 1982 and 2000 and migration trends and projections, are subject to revision as the implications of the 2001 Census results are assessed.

  4. More detailed results from Scotland's Census, including information from all the questions on the Census form and detail for areas smaller than council area will be made available by March 2003. Summary data will be published in a report to the Scottish Parliament and fuller information will be available free of charge via the Internet. The GROS publication 'Scotland's Census - A guide to the results and how to obtain them' is available on the GROS website.

  5. For further information on the availability of more detailed data and tables, please contact Statistics Customer Services using our Contact Form.

Page last updated: 17 March 2010

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