SCOTLAND’S population has reached to its highest ever level, as newly released figures showed the number stood at 5,295,000.
SCOTLAND’S population has reached its highest level ever, following a “baby boom” and surge in migration. It jumped by 233,000 people in a decade, bringing the total number to a record 5,295,000, the first results of the 2011 census show.
Experts said last night the 5 per cent increase was down to a sizable increase in births, with a 293,000 (6 per cent) rise in the number of children under five in the past ten years.
Scotland’s acting Registrar General, Audrey Robertson, said there was “definitely a baby boom”, but said migration was the “big driver” in the jump, with previous estimates showing a net total of 190,000 people have moved to the country over the past decade.
There was also a longer-term increase in Scotland’s older population, with the number of Scots aged 65 higher than the number aged under 15 for the first time ever. The number aged 65 or over has soared by 85,000 since 2001 – and now represents 17 per cent of the population.
The number of those aged 80 reached 230,000, up 19 per cent from a decade ago, the figures show.
But a rise in births came alongside a decrease of 69,000, or 11 per cent, in the number of children aged between five and 14 in a decade.
The first batch of results from the census of March 2011 was published yesterday. It is not yet clear whether migrants to Scotland had come from European nations or other parts of the UK, Ms Robertson said, with the details not due to be published until the next part of the census is released.
She said: “These first results from the census confirm the upward trend in the size of Scotland’s population in recent years. At 5,295,000, the population is now the highest ever recorded.
“This increase is partly because there have been more births than deaths, but mainly because more people have moved to Scotland than have left.”
The acting Registrar General went on to say that the increases in migration and births had been “quite stark” in the latest census, compared with those in 2011, when she said the changes had been “fairly flat”.
She said: “Over the last decade we have seen more births than deaths. A big driver in the population increase has been net
migration. We can’t yet say whether this population increase has come from people in other European countries or from other parts of the UK.
“With the rise in the number of younger children and the decrease in older ones, it looks like there has been an increase in fertility rates. And it’s definitely a baby boom, but it’s too early to say if this will continue.”
The census was more proof that the country has turned around a population decline that was a source of anxiety at the beginning of this century.
Scotland’s population had been falling steadily from a peak of 5,227,000 in the mid-1970s to 5,055,000 in 2002, but has been rising since.
Tory MSP Alex Johnstone claimed Scotland’s increase in migration had been a success story by creating a labour force for firms.
He said: “Immigration to Scotland, especially that from eastern Europe, has been one of the country’s success stories in recent years.
“I speak to business owners regularly, who tell me that they would have been left without a workforce if there hadn’t been this increase in migration.
“I’m always concerned about whether the level of services we have can meet the needs of the population, but the vast majority of migrants pay taxes and contribute to the wellbeing of our public services.”
Births have been outstripping deaths, with figures for 2011 showing there were 58,000 against 53,000, figures from the Registrar General for Scotland have previously showed.
Scotland’s external affairs minister Fiona Hyslop claimed the population increase represented a “historic” opportunity to grow the nation’s economy.
She said: “In common with almost every mature economy, we have an ageing population, but these figures also show the under-fives population is up by 6 per cent, compared with 2001.
“These figures represent an historic moment for our country. A decade and more of devolution has delivered a growing and record high population.
“That is not simply a sign of the dynamic, attractive nation we are building. It is also a key factor in delivering economic growth in future years. The Scottish Government set population growth as a key national target exactly because we know it is one of the most important drivers of sustainable economic growth.
“Today’s figures show that we are well on track to meet, and even exceed that population growth target.
“Not only do these statistics represent the fastest growth rate between two census years in the past century, but demonstrate that our hard work to grow Scotland’s population to support economic growth is paying off.”
Meanwhile, there was a call from Scotland’s GPs yesterday for more support to build new surgeries to cope with the population.
Dr Alan McDevitt, chairman of the British Medical Association’s Scottish general practitioners committee, said: “Everyone needs to have access to their GP at some point in their life, from immunisation of babies to care for the elderly. If we are to improve access and provide the range of services that patients need, then we have to make sure we have the capacity to deliver.”