Scotland’s population grew by just 2,700 people last year, the lowest rate for nearly 20 years, after the country recorded the largest natural population decrease on record.
National Records of Scotland, the statistics agency, said its population estimates for 30 June 2020 showed there were 14,500 more deaths than births.
Many of the 63,100 deaths recorded for that 12 months period were attributed to 4,158 Covid fatalities during the first three months of the pandemic and 31% excess deaths overall, compared to 48,700 births (figures are rounded up and down).
Net migration from within the UK and from overseas, which has driven Scotland’s population growth in recent decades, also fell to 16,900. That was 13,300 fewer than in mid-2019.
NRS said this meant that overall, the country’s population grew last year by just 0.05%, the lowest figure since 2003, taking the estimated total to 5.47m. The average growth for the previous five years had been around 23,000 new residents a year, peaking at 0.72% growth in 2009/10.
Esther Roughsedge, the agency’s head of population and migration statistics, said:
A key reason for this small increase is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the last year we have seen a 4% reduction in births and a 12% increase in deaths.
Also, the difference between the number of people coming to Scotland and those leaving is smaller than in any of the previous six years.
Only 12 of Scotland’s 32 council areas showed population growth, nearly all of which were in the central belt, with the exception of Orkney and Aberdeen, which was driven by inward migration. Only one council, Midlothian, recorded more births than deaths.
NRS estimated that 9,000 more people from the rest of the UK moved to Scotland than left; 7,900 more people migrated to Scotland from overseas than left.