Edinburgh's population booming despite Scotland's low birth rate

EDINBURGH and the Lothians are leading the way in Scotland’s population boom with more births than deaths last year as well as more people coming to live in the area.

By Ian Swanson
Wednesday, 14th August 2019, 7:08 pm
Edinburgh's population has increased by four times the national average
Edinburgh's population has increased by four times the national average

Latest statistics show Scotland’s population is now at its highest ever - 5.44 million - with migration as the main contributor.

The population has increased by 4.5 per cent since 2008. But the rate of growth has slowed for the second year running, due to a fall in net migration and deaths outnumbering births overall.

Midlothian saw the biggest population increase in Scotland last year. While the national population grew by 0.25 per cent, Midlothian’s jumped by 1.4 per cent. Edinburgh was second with one per cent and East Lothian next with 0.9 per cent. West Lothian ranked seventh with 0.5 per cent.

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The figures are being hailed as evidence of the area’s booming economy and high quality of life, but there were also warnings about the challenge which an increasing population poses for public services.

The statistics, published in the Registrar General’s annual review of demographic trends, showed Midlothian, Edinburgh and West Lothian were among only a handful of areas across Scotland where the number of births exceeded the number of deaths.

Meanwhile migration to Edinburgh and the Lothians - from elsewhere in Scotland and the UK as well as overseas - increased from 34,830 in 2017 to 35,420 last year. But so did the number of people moving out of the area - from 26,890 to 27,980 - which meant the net migration last year - 7440 - was slightly down on the 7950 for 2017.

People in Scotland are living longer than they were in the past. But Scotland’s fertility rate is the lowest in the UK and falling the fastest, which means older people make up a growing proportion of the population.

Life expectancy across the country has stalled in recent years after increasing over the past three decades, the review said.

Since 1980-1982, the figures have increased by 7.9 years for men and 5.8 years for women.

But they have stalled since 2012 and life expectancy has fallen slightly for both males and females in the most recent estimate in 2015-2017 - a drop attributed to a slowing of the reduction in deaths from heart disease, a rise in drug related deaths and an increase in dementia.

The average life expectancy for a woman is now 81.1 years and for a man 77 years. People in the Capital can expect to live a little longer - men until 78 and women until 82.3, virtually unchanged since the previous year.

The Registrar has also published for the first time data on “healthy life expectancy” showing females born in Scotland in 2015-17 could expect to spend 62.7 years - or 77.3 per cent of their lives - in good health, followed by 18.4 years in poor health. For males, the figures are 62.3 years - or 80.9 per cent of their lives - in good health and then 14.7 years in poor health.

In Edinburgh, the statistics suggest men could expect to enjoy 65 years - or 83.4 per cent of their lives - of good health while women might have 65.1 years or 79.1 per cent of their lives.

In East Lothian, the figures were 65.3 years, or 83.4 per cent of their lives, for men and 63.9, or 77.4 per cent of their lives, for women.

Healthy life expectancy in Midlothian was 61.8 years, or 79.3 per cent of their lives, for men and 63.8 years, or 78.1 per cent of their lives, for women.

And in West Lothian it was 61.9 years, or 79.2 per cent of their lives, for men and 62.1 years, or 76.8 per cent of their lives for women.

Heart disease remains the biggest cause of death in Scotland, accounting for 11.3 per cent of all deaths, although numbers have almost halved since 2000.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is a close second, accounting for 11.1 per cent of deaths.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman and Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said the healthy life expectancy figures were useful but also highlighted a “worrying” reality that an increasingly elderly population would mean more and more demand on health and social care services.

He said: “An increase in life expectancy does not necessarily mean people’s years of good health is going up. We need to invest in health and social care and health promotion so we can all live healthier lives for as long as possible.”

The next official set of population projections are not due until October, but the statistics showing the population trends from last year were enough to prompt warnings from charity Age Scotland.

Chief executive Brian Sloan said the figures confirmed that Scotland’s population was ageing, dementia was the most common cause of death among women and more older people were living alone.

“We need to ensure Scotland is fit for the future. This includes ensuring our precious health and social care services are properly resourced and are planning on how best to support more older people.

“We already know social care faces immense pressure in terms of funding and staffing, so it is vital this is properly invested in and extensive recruitment is undertaken.

“Over the next two decades there will be 50 per cent more people living with dementia in Scotland. A child born today could have a one in three chance of developing dementia in later life. It is therefore absolutely vital Scotland gets it right in terms of how to best support and care for those affected.”

The number of marriages in Scotland fell by 915 - or three per cent - last year. Out of a total of 27,525 marriages, 979 were same-sex marriages, involving 399 male couples and 580 female couples.

Almost half of all weddings - 13,596 - were civil ceremonies. Church of Scotland weddings fell to 2789 while Roman Catholic ceremonies were down to 1079 and other religious weddings numbered 3672. Humanist weddings increased to 6389.