Andrew Kerr, the chief executive of Edinburgh City Council, said the capital was on course to grow its population by 50 per cent by 2050, overtaking Glasgow as early as 2032.
Addressing a housing and construction event, he argued that the “biggest strategic issue” facing Edinburgh was not attracting more people, but managing its growth in a sustainable way.
Mr Kerr said the “stress” on the city’s infrastructure was already apparent during the festival period, describing pavements “packed” with tourists.
According to the National Records of Scotland, the population of Edinburgh stood at 513,210 in June last year, while in Glasgow the total number of residents was 621,020.
However, its forecasts also suggest that the capital will grow by 7.7 per cent between 2016 and 2026, significantly faster than Glasgow’s predicted rate of 4 per cent.
“We’re arguably the only major growing part of Scotland. That means that by the time we get to 2050, we’ll be half the size we are again,” Mr Kerr told the Built Environment Networking meeting.
“We’re a 500,000 person city now, we’ll be 750,000 people. We’ll overtake Glasgow as the largest city in Scotland in 2032 – that’s our best estimate. Glasgow say it’s much longer than that of course.”
Mr Kerr added that demand for housing and office space would continue to grow, admitting that the city was “definitely not building quick enough” and would have to “get our act together”.
But he said the capital had a “huge opportunity” to grow along the shore from Granton to Prestonpans, describing this as the “largest underdeveloped waterfront in Europe”.
“Edinburgh’s biggest strategic issue is about how it’s going to deal sustainably deal with that growth,” he told the audience.
“We’re not a city that needs regeneration, we’re a city that needs to grow sustainably, a city that needs to cope with its own growth and maintain its quality of life, maintain its status in the world.”
Mr Kerr said Edinburgh was able to grow its population through “lots of migration” from abroad and England, but did not mention the possible impact of Brexit.
Glasgow City Council declined to comment on Mr Kerr’s remarks.