The contribution that “new Scots” make was welcomed by the Scottish Government yesterday, which said they are vital to the economy. The number of people coming to Scotland from overseas reached a 20-year high last year and was the key factor behind the ninth successive population rise in mid-2011.
Dr Chris Wilson, a lecturer in demographics at St Andrews University, said the increase in the population has been “driven by migrants” over the past decade as birth and death rates remained static.
“It’s new for Scotland,” he said. “Throughout the 1950s and 1960s with the baby boom, there should have been a lot of population growth in Scotland, but there wasn’t because it was exported, mainly to England. People were moving out.
“Scotland didn’t get the consequences of a baby boom, but the last ten years have been very different by the standards of Scottish history. We’re becoming more and more of a destination for migrants.”
The number of people living in Scotland who were born outside the UK is estimated to be 334,000. The most common country of origin is Poland with about 62,000 Poles in Scotland. There are 26,000 people from India, 21,000 from the Irish Republic, 20,000 Germans and 17,000 from Pakistan.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This year’s net population increase is the highest we have seen for more than 50 years and demonstrates that our hard work to grow Scotland’s population, to support economic growth, is paying off.
“Should this trend continue, Scotland will be on track to exceed the population growth target established in our Government Economic Strategy. Scotland has a large, established migrant community and we welcome the contribution new Scots are making to our economy and society.”
There were 42,300 people, including asylum seekers, who arrived in the country from abroad over the year to the end of June 2011, while 16,900 left the country. The net increase of 25,400 is the highest since records began in 1991.
Over the year, 43,700 people came to Scotland from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 40,800 left Scotland to go in the opposite direction.
Coupled with births outstripping deaths by 4,800, immigrants pushed Scotland’s population to a record high.
Tory finance spokesman Gavin Brown said there had been widespread concerns a decade ago as Scotland’s population threatened to drop below five million.
“The majority of people who come to Scotland want to make an economic and social contribution and it is important they continue to do so,” he said.
The estimated population of Scotland on 30 June 2011 was 5,254,800, a rise of 32,700 on the previous year.
Last year’s rise outstrips the 24,000 annual increase the Scottish council of economic advisers recommended to meet Scotland’s population growth target.
The Scottish Government wants more powers over immigration to increase the working-age population.