When we looked at the UK’s census results last month, there were boos from the audience that the numbers didn’t include Scotland. Well, we still can’t bring the census results for Alba as they aren’t out until towards the end of the year, but we can bring you the next best thing (are you ready for it?):  the latest “Annual Review of Demographic Trends” published by the Scottish Registrar General! And it is totally worth the wait.

For those of you thinking that recently the world has seemed a bit more tartan and perhaps a bit more incomprehensible (my friend got into trouble in Glasgow once for telling a native completely innocently that he was sorry, he didn’t understand as he only spoke English. Said friend was lucky to escape unscathed…) then you’d be right. There are now more Scots (Scotch? Scottish people? people living in Scotland?) in the world than there has ever been. EVER. (Estimated).

Based upon the 2001 census figures (the 2011 ones are coming, people – be patient please) on 30 June 2011 it is estimated that there were 5,254,800 people living in Scotland.  This was an increase of around 33,000 or 0.6% on the year before.  However, the natural increase is estimated to be about a sixth of that – there were only 5,000 more births than deaths in Scotland over the year. Instead, the Scottish population increase has been mostly due to the net immigration – 27,000 people went to Scotland in the year ending 30 June 2011 than left it.  I wonder why that is the case…?

In terms of the population breakdown – over a third of the population is below the age of 16 and 65 and over, these being the traditional dependency age brackets. By 2035 it is estimated that Scotland will have a population of 5.76 million and the number of people aged 65 will have increased to 1.43 million (or 25% of the population).  Thus the population is getting older and will continue to get older. Unfortunately, unless the birthrate trends change, Scotland will have to continue to rely on immigration to keep the workforce numbers high enough to support this aged society.  For the third year in a row, 2011 saw fewer births than the year before. While the drop of 0.3% in a year is hardly disastrous, a sustained downward trend will make it hard for the next generation to support the current one.  On a more positive note, the Scottish life expectancy has greatly improved over the last 25 years.  However, at 76.1 years for men and 80.6 years for women it is still about 4-5 years below the EU countries with the highest life expectancy. 

So Scotland – there are more people living there, largely due to immigration. There are fewer births, and the population is living longer and getting older on the whole. Thus, another normal western society in the twenty-first century.

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...