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Scotland’s declining population share

Chapter summary

  • Scotland’s population is currently estimated at 5.3 million, or below 1 in 12 of the UK population of 64.1m. Between 1964 and 2002 the Scottish population was broadly stable. Since 2002 the population has begun to increase slowly, adding around 250,000 inhabitants.
  • However Scotland’s population has not kept pace with the rest of the UK. It has fallen over the last 50 years from 9.6% of the total to 8.3% today. This is a weak base from which to pay for Government obligations such as health, education or social protection.

Scotland’s share of UK population has been declining for years

Scotland’s population is currently estimated at 5,327,000, or 8.3% of the UK total of 64.1m. Between 1964 and 2002 the Scottish population was broadly stable, showing a very marginal decline. Since 2002 the population has begun to increase slowly, adding around 250,000 inhabitants. This increase has been largely achieved by immigration.

However, as the chart below shows, Scotland’s population has not kept pace with the rest of the UK. It has fallen over the last 50 years from 9.6% of the total to 8.3% today. Indeed, while Scotland’s demographics have begun to show some growth, this improving trend still lags the rest of the UK.

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Modelling demographic trends is clearly an imperfect science, as fluctuations in migration can be difficult to predict. However, a study by Eurostat suggests that, while Scotland’s population over the next 20 years will grow, that rate of growth will continue to lag the rest of the UK as it has in the recent past.

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Given the drivers discussed earlier, population growth is a key factor in determining the affordability of growth in spending in key services like social protection, pensions and education. Scotland’s ratio of workers to dependents continues to decline at a faster rate than elsewhere in the UK. While Scotland remains a partner in a larger nation with a faster-growing population, is much better placed to deliver those services than on its own.

on September 16 | by

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