THE number of couples tying the knot in Scotland has increased for the third year in a row, with marriage numbers reaching their highest level since 2005.
There were 30,534 marriages in Scotland last year, a 4.8 per cent increase on 2011, according to the provisional statistics from National Records of Scotland.
The figures also showed a “not unexpected” increase in the number of deaths, up from a record low in 2011.
The number of deaths in Scotland rose by 2.4 per cent last year to a total of 54,937, although the figure was the fourth lowest recorded in more than 150 years.
Scotland’s death toll registered in 2011 – at 53,661 – was the lowest annual total since records began in 1855.
More people died of cancer last year, up 2.3 per cent to 15,808, but deaths from heart disease fell, by 2 per cent to 7,481, and deaths from stroke were down by 2.6 per cent to 4,474.
The National Records of Scotland handles statistics on births, deaths and adoptions, as well as marriages.
Tim Ellis, the new chief executive of National Records of Scotland whose job combines the role of registrar general and keeper of the records, said a key finding was the increase in marriage in recent years.
The former head of the cabinet, parliament and governance division at the Scottish Government highlighted an increase in weddings since the late 2000s.
“In historic terms, the number of marriages in 2012 was relatively low,” he said. “However, the total number of marriages has been rising since 2009 and in 2012 reached 30,534, an increase of 4.8 per cent on the 2011 figure.
“Although deaths rose in 2012, they are not high in historical terms.
“From the mid-1940s to the mid-1990s, there tended to be between 60,000 and 65,000 deaths per year, and larger numbers before then; far more than in recent years when the annual totals have been below 55,000.”
He added: “There is usually some year-to-year fluctuation in the number of deaths and in 2011 Scotland recorded its lowest-ever annual total, so an increase in the number registered in 2012 was not unexpected.”
Meanwhile, the number of births dropped to 58,027, down 1 per cent on the previous year and the lowest since 2007, according to the figures.
The proportion of babies born to unmarried couples was the highest yet, at 51.3 per cent and up slightly from the 51 per cent recorded in 2011.
As well as more marriages, more same-sex couples entered civil partnerships, up from 554 in 2011 to 574 last year, the National Records of Scotland showed.
Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie suggested that moves by Holyrood to legalise same-sex weddings would impact upon the marriage figures the years ahead.
Mr Harvie said: “I’d like to see every couple be able to choose whether they get married or have a civil partnership.
“It will be interesting to see how many would choose marriage and how this would impact upon these figures.”
However, Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone called on the Westminster and Scottish governments to do more to promote marriage as he welcomed the sharp rise in weddings last year.
The MSP for the North-East and shadow minister for communities and housing said that it was important to encourage the positive role a family can play in a child’s upbringing.
He said: “I’m delighted to hear that marriage is more popular and believe that it is the best foundation to establish family life.
“The increase in marriages in Scotland vindicates those who believe that marriage is the best way provide for children in a domestic situation. This trend also defies the interpretation of family life of those who would wish to see it changed.”
Mr Johnstone went on to call upon the Scottish Government to launch a cancer drugs fund, after the figures showed that the number of deaths from the disease had increased last year.
He said that the fund would set aside money to provide treatments for cancer sufferers which are not available on the NHS.
He said: “With more than 15,000 Scots dying from cancer last year, these figures show the terrible scale of the problem we are facing.
“There is a need for a fund to deal with very specific cases where a certain type of drug and therapy is needed.”
Meanwhile, the latest National Records of Scotland figures did not include the numbers of divorces and dissolutions of civil partnerships.
The Scottish Government is now the only publisher of statistics of divorces and dissolutions for Scotland, with the latest statistics set to be published towards the end of this year.
Divorces hit a 30-year low at 9,814 in 2011, according to the last set of figures released in 2012.