The extent of Scotland’s ageing population has been spelled out by new statistics forecasting that the over-75s are set to become the fastest-growing age group in the country.
According to the statistics, the number of people aged 75 and over is projected to increase by 27 per cent over the next ten years, and by 79 per cent over the next 25 years. The number of pensioners is expected to increase by 25 per cent over the same period, a rise that led to warnings that the increasing number of elderly people will increase the strain on public services.
Meanwhile, the number of people of working age is forecast to increase by 1 per cent, and the number of children to decrease by 2 per cent.
The number of deaths will continue to exceed the number of births every year, statisticians said.
They said all of the projected increase in Scotland’s population over the next ten years was due to migration into Scotland.
More than half – 58 per cent – is projected to come from overseas, with 42 per cent from the rest of the UK.
The projections are based on the latest population estimates for 2016, and provide an indication of the future size and age structure of Scotland’s population based on a set of assumptions about future fertility, mortality and migration.
The Scottish Government highlighted additional figures designed to illustrate the effects of differing levels of European Union migration to Scotland.
The figures – which were prepared by the Office for National Statistics, but do not have national statistics status – provide illustrations of the effect on Scotland’s population if European Union migration was half of its current level, or zero.
A situation where EU migration falls to half of current levels would see Scotland’s population rise by 4 per cent over the 25-year period, while no future migration from the bloc would see it increase by 2 per cent, peaking in 2032 and then declining until 2041.
In the zero EU migration scenario, Scotland’s working age population is projected to decline by 3 per cent over the next 25 years, while at the same time the pensioner population is projected to increase by 25 per cent, resulting in an increase in the dependency ratio.
External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “These figures illustrate the critical importance of maintaining inward migration to Scotland – including maintaining the existing freedom of movement with European neighbours – to help increase Scotland’s population and grow the economy.
“As our population ages, the continued availability of labour from across Europe is essential to meet our economic and social needs and to address potential skills shortages in all sectors of the labour market.”
Labour’s economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie warned that the ageing population would put strain on public services.
She said: “Today’s population figures further confirm the long-term trend of an ageing population.
“Our public services are already under severe strain after years of SNP and Tory austerity, a problem“ our ageing population will only exacerbate.
“It is clear from these figures that we need to have a frank and honest debate about increasing taxation in order to protect our public services.
“Labour has been clear and consistent that we believe in a progressive tax plan that asks people to pay a little bit more so that we can put an end to austerity in Scotland.”