Scotland's Demographics

Scotland’s population is at its highest ever level, 5.40 million in 2016. In recent years, most of the population increase in Scotland has been due to net in-migration.  Natural change (births minus deaths) has not contributed significantly to Scotland’s population over the past 50 years.  If current trends continue, all of the projected increase in Scotland’s population will be due to net inward migration to Scotland from the rest of the UK and overseas. 

Scotland also faces significant challenges in relation to its ageing population.  According to NRS 2016-based population projections, over the next 25 years, the number of people of pensionable age and over per 1,000 working age population is projected to increase from 307 to 380.  The number of children per 1,000 working age population is projected to decrease from 267 to 260 over the same period.

These are stark figures and emphasise the need for Scotland’s local authorities to be able to attract a young workforce to this country. A great deal of work is being carried out by local authorities to make their areas attractive places to live, work, visit and study. We are supporting local authorities to respond to demographic change through: 

  • Working with the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and other partners to build a better understanding of demographic issues and the particular needs of migrant populations.
  • Working with NRS to improve the quality of data and information on migration and ensuring good dissemination.
  • Supporting local authorities to develop strategies to address their demographic challenges using migration as a potential lever of growth.
  • Responding to Migration Advisory Committee consultations and collaborating with key partners to promote Scottish needs and influence immigration policy.