Scotland's birthrate falls to lowest level on record

Scotland's population is at a record high - but its birthrate is at a record low. Picture: John Devlin
Scotland's population is at a record high - but its birthrate is at a record low. Picture: John Devlin
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Scotland's birthrate in the second quarter of the year was the lowest since records began in 1885, prompting Holyrood ministers to issue a fresh reminder of the importance of migration to the country.

In the three months from April-June, there were 12,253 births registered north of the Border - a drop of 5.4 per cent from the same period last year.

Registrars said there was no single reason for the fall in the number of births. It speculated that causes may include the postponement of childbearing until older ages and economic uncertainty influencing decisions around childbearing - particularly given that the beginning of the recent fall coincided with the financial crash a decade ago.

Julia Karlstedt, manager of Edinburgh-based charity Pregnancy Counselling & Care (Scotland), said the cost of childcare may be putting off adults from starting families.

“The demand for our services has risen steadily in the last five years and we expect that to continue,” she told The Scotsman.

“We offer Edinburgh’s only babybank service - offering equipment and goods to parents referred to us - and the demand is growing, including among families where both parents are in work.”

READ MORE: Will Scotland’s population shrink without its own migration system?

Despite the birthrate being at an historic low, the country's population is 5.4 million - the highest on record. But this growth has been fuelled by people generally living longer and migration from overseas and elsewhere in the UK.

Scotland - like many other European nations - has an ageing population. The Scottish Government has long been concerned that if migration to the UK is cut post-Brexit, Scotland’s population will drop in the long-term.

Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Government's external affairs secretary, said: "As these statistics reinforce, against a backdrop of yet another record fall in the birth rate, Scotland’s population is ageing with a shift in population from the west to east and declining population in rural areas.

“The cornerstones of a strong economy are productivity, participation and population. We need to grow our population to ensure we have sustainable, vibrant and resilient communities and drive improvements in inclusive growth.

“Given our declining birth rate all of Scotland’s population growth is predicted to come from migration. However, the UK Government’s proposals to end free movement of people and limit migration presents a real risk.

“We need to ensure we can grow our working age population to support our economy and society now and in the future when we expect more people to live longer beyond retirement.”

“In June, I announced a Ministerial task force to consider Scotland’s future population challenges and develop new solutions to address demographic and population change. The focus of the group will be on identifying the good work that is already underway across Government, intensifying that work where needed as well as identifying and addressing further opportunities for change.”