The number of babies being born in Scotland is at its lowest for 17 years - prompting calls from the Scottish Government for the devolution of immigration policy.
New statistics from the National Records of Scotland show 12,642 births in the first three months of 2019, while there were 15,306 registered deaths.
The figures reveal that compared to the first quarter of last year birth rates were down 0.4 per cent making it the second lowest quarter of births since registration began in 1855, with only the year 2002 having a lower figure at 12,374.
According to the NRS there is "no single reason" for the fall in the number of births, but "possible causes may include the postponement of childbearing until older ages, often meaning that women will have fewer children" and "the economic uncertainty influencing decisions around childbearing, particularly given that the beginning of the recent fall coincided with the financial crash a decade ago."
But Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said the figures "further emphasise the challenge we face in growing our population."
She added: “We need to grow our population to ensure we have sustainable, vibrant and resilient communities and drive improvements in inclusive growth. While there can be many drivers for growth, as things stand all of Scotland’s population growth over the next 25 years – including our working age population – is projected to come from migration.
“Against the backdrop of increasingly inward-looking immigration policies being imposed by the UK Government, it is now imperative for Scotland to have the powers to develop a tailor made migration policy that enables our businesses, communities and public services to thrive.”
According to the figures, the number of deaths has also fallen - 13.9 per cent lower than in the same period last year but 9.6 per cent higher than in 2014 which was the lowest figure recorded.
The statistics also showed that, compared with the same time last year, the number of cancer deaths fell by 5.2 per cent, those from coronary heart disease dropped by 10.5 per cent and the number of deaths from dementia and Alzheimer's fell by 24.2 per cent. Deaths from respiratory diseases fell by 30.8 and those from cerebrovascular disease by 21.1 per cent.
Paul Lowe, the Registrar General for Scotland, said: “In line with recent trends, the number of births in Scotland continues to fall, with the number registered in the first quarter of 2019 second lowest since civil registration began in 1855 with only quarter one of 2002 having a lower number.
“Quarter one usually has the highest number of deaths each year as it rises in winter. After the very high number of deaths recorded in quarter one of 2018, it is not surprising that the 2019 quarter one deaths represent a large decrease compared with that figure.”
The new figures also show there were 3.198 marriages in total in the first quarter of 2019 - 264 less than during the same period last year.
There were 130 same-sex marriages, the same number as in 2018, with 11 of those changes from civil partnerships. There were 14 civil partnerships (nine male and five female), the same number as in the first quarter of 2018.