IMMIGRANTS from eastern Europe have helped trigger a baby boom in Scotland this year, new official figures have revealed.
There were 646 more babies born in the first quarter of 2007. Of that number, one in five were born to mothers from Eastern Europe.
It is the first time the General Register Office for Scotland has broken down its statistics to uncover the extent of the impact on Scotland's population of mass immigration from Eastern Europe.
A spokesman said: "Births in Scotland went up by 646 as a whole compared with the first quarter of 2006.
"One in five of those babies were born to parents from the EU accession states.
"Of that number, the majority of babies were born to Polish parents, followed by parents from Latvia."
In the past four years, about 600,000 eastern European immigrants have arrived in the UK from the eight nations that have recently joined the EU, including Poland, which joined in 2004, and Romania and Bulgaria, which joined this year.
The Executive believes there are about 40,000 Poles living in Scotland, while the Polish Council believes there are about 50,000. The true figure could be as high as 100,000.
The figures released yesterday showed that while the birth rate in Scotland has continued to grow this year, it was outweighed by the number of deaths.
The first three months of 2007 saw 14,214 babies born, an increase of 4.8 per cent on the same period the previous year.
It continues a five-year trend and is the highest number during the first quarter of the year since 1997.
However, deaths increased by 6.3 per cent from 14,876 to 15,818, the highest total since the same period in 2000.
While the number of deaths from cancer fell by 0.6 per cent, deaths from coronary heart disease increased by 2.4 per cent and deaths from stroke by 1.9 per cent.
The figures give Scotland an estimated population of 5,116,900.
The Registrar General for Scotland, Duncan Macniven, said: "The increase in the number of deaths was disappointing, though it was partly a reflection of the unprecedentedly small number of deaths in the first quarter of 2006.
"The increase was relatively small and it is too early to suggest a change in the trend of a falling death rate."
The figures also showed that the number of marriages dropped, by 4.6 per cent from 3,493 to 3,333, and - as had been expected - the number of same-sex civil partnerships also fell.
Robert Whelan, of the Civitas think tank, said: "We have to bear in mind with immigration that we are not just looking at the numbers of adults coming into the country, but at large numbers of children being born.
"It will make a growing difference to the balance of the population because birth rates among the existing population are low. Immigrant groups have higher birth rates than the existing population."
• THE most popular names for Polish children are quite different from Jack and Sophie - the names most often chosen by parents of Scottish children.
The most popular name for a Polish baby boy is Jan, with Anna being the favourite name for a girl.
Following Jan, the names most commonly picked by Polish parents for boys are: Andrzej, Piotr, Krzysztof, Stanislaw, Tomasz, Pawel, Jzef, Marcin and Marek.
For girls, the next most popular after Anna are: Maria, Katarzyna, Malgorzata, Agnieszka, Krystyna, Barbara, Ewa, Elzbieta and Zofia.