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*Depopulating Country 2002-09-30

Posted by clype in Scotland, Statistics.

The 2001 census confirms a fall in Scotland’s population to 5 062 011. This makes Scotland different from England & Wales and Northern Ireland, where population growth was recorded.

The Scottish population is a little lower than at the time of the last census in 1991 and a remarkable 2 per cent less (116 000) than the 1981 figure.

The stagnant picture for Scotland’s population over the last decade contrasts markedly with the rapid pace of population growth in the 19th century, when Scotland’s population grew from 1.6 million in 1801 to 3.2 million in 1861. In the 1990s low birth and death rates have left migration as the main process responsible for producing natural population change.

The most significant surprise in the 2001 Scottish census is that it indicates that out-migration from Scotland has been substantially under-estimated over the last decade.

On the basis of the census information it appears that the government’s mid-year estimates for 2000 were 56 000 persons too high. This is a large mis-estimate equivalent to the population of a town the size of Livingston or Kirkcaldy.

Since very reliable estimates of births and deaths are recorded year on year, demographic experts would point to net out-migration as the main reason for this unexpected drop in population numbers.

The 2001 census also reveals significant changes in population structure and distribution.

In terms of age structure fewer children are being born in Scotland than ever before. Children under 10 years of age made up only 11.5 per cent of the population in 2001 (12.7 per cent in 1991).

The shrinkage in the number of children under 15 years of age since 1981 has been a massive 18 per cent.

This trend towards fewer births has been going on for several decades and is shown in the sharp decrease in other cohorts of the younger population. For example, there has been a 13.7 per cent reduction in the number of persons aged 15/ 29 between the 1991 and 2001 census.

Since 1981 the fall is even more dramatic (down 23 per cent). By contrast the population making up the older part of the work force has grown, by 14.8 per cent in the 45/ 59 age cohort since 1991.

The ageing of the population is also evident among the retired population. The over 75 age group grew by 9.8 per cent between the 1991 and 2001 censuses. Since 1981 the over 75 age group has increased by a substantial 29 per cent.

Structural changes to Scotland’s population have all kinds of profound implications for service provision across the country. Scotland’s population is declining and getting older — Examples include school closures due to a reduction in the number of children; labour force shortages through a reduction in the number of people in the younger work force; and the costs of health service provision because of the growth in the number of over 75s.

These effects and many others will be felt unevenly across Scotland, reflecting the regionally diverse nature of the population structure.

For example, the 2001 census reveals the highly variable proportion of elderly people across Scotland.

In the Western Isles 9.6 per cent of the population was in the over 75 age group, with the Borders (8.9 per cent) and South Ayrshire (8.8 per cent) also having very elderly populations.

By contrast, West Lothian had the lowest percentage in the 75 and over age groups (4.7 per cent). Analysis of the role of population movement within Scotland in recent years shows some very interesting changes.

City exodus

Mid-year estimates produced by the General Registrar’s Office Scotland suggests that since 1995 West Lothian was the only council area to make really significant net population gains (6.1 per cent).

Although between 2000 and 2001 Glasgow made a small migration gain, the longer run trends continue downwards.

The city’s population drop from 618 430 in 1995 to only 577 869 at the time of the 2001 census represented a 6.6 per cent decline.

By contrast Edinburgh, in the wake of devolution, continues to enjoy a low growth rate which has risen by 2.9 per cent from 447 550 persons in 1995 to 448 624.

West Lothian continued to grow during 2000/ 2001 by net in-migration at a steady rate of +0.78 per cent.

Aberdeen and Dundee continue to make small population losses by net-outmigration, experiencing -0.71 and -0.77 per cent reductions respectively between 2000 and 2001.

So in summary, Scotland’s population is declining and getting older.

Scotland is losing population to the rest of the UK and through international emigration.

Internal population movements continue to redistribute population from the older industrial cities, although in recent years the pace of this out movement has slowed and in some cities has halted.

‘Analysis: Scotland’s census figures’, BBC News, 2002-09-30, Mo, 15:54 UCT


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