LOTHIAN’S ticking population timebomb is exposed in new figures showing the area will see a bigger increase in households than anywhere else in Scotland over the next 25 years.
The number of households in Midlothian is projected to rise by 36 per cent by 2041, while Edinburgh and East Lothian will increase by 26 per cent and West Lothian by 21 per cent compared with the all-Scotland figure of just 13 per cent.
Across the whole of the Lothians, there will be an extra 101,695 households.
Politicians hailed the statistics as evidence of a booming economy but also warned of the challenges ahead, particularly from an increasingly elderly population.
Nationally the number of households headed by someone aged 70 or over is projected to increase by 58 per cent, compared to an increase of just 2 per cent for those under 70.
West Lothian faces a massive 111 per cent rise in households headed by someone over 75 - up from 8352 in 2016 to 17,638 in 2041. The figure for East Lothian is 93 per cent, Midlothian 91 per cent and Edinburgh 71.
City council deputy leader Cammy Day said: “It’s great the city is thriving. But a growing population brings continued pressure on schools, transport and infrastructure and we need to plan ahead for that.
“That’s why we need trams and other means of transport to get people around our growing city quickly and effectively.
“I hope to see trams reaching out to the south of the city - the Royal Infirmary, the Sick Kids and the Bioquarter - and beyond.”
Economy and housing convener Kate Campbell said the Capital’s projected population increase - with households up from 231,383 in 2016 to 291,764 in 2041 - was a good sign. “It shows we have an amazing quality of life. It’s one of the best places you can live in the world, so more people will want to come and live here and that’s good for the economy and good for growth.
“There will be challenges, of course, and we’re aware of those. We’re looking at how we ensure everyone has a home and we have a very ambitious housing programme to deliver 20,000 over ten years.”
Although the projected rise in elderly households in Edinburgh is not as large as elsewhere, the increase in demand for social care will pose a real challenge in the Capital where hundreds are currently stuck in hospital because of problems in providing care outside.
Age Scotland said the latest figures should act as a wake-up call to councils and the Scottish Government. Director Delia Henry said: “Scotland is ageing to a greater extent than the rest of the UK and over the next twenty years almost a third of all Scots will be over 60, increasing to almost 1.8 million.
“Quite frankly, Scotland isn’t building enough homes to meet our rapidly ageing population. These need to include different sizes, type, tenure and locations.”
Midlothian Council leader, Councillor Derek Milligan said rapid growth brought both challenges and opportunities.
“More households mean more people and greater demand on services, especially as we’re all living longer,” he said.
“As the number of new homes being built is largely dictated by the Scottish government, we really need to make sure we’re getting the financial support we need from the Scottish government to provide the infrastructure required. Housing developers must continue to contribute too to help build new roads and schools, for example.
“We need the infrastructure required in place to make sure Midlothian continues to be an attractive place in which to live, work and visit. This can only be achieved with commitment and finance from the government and developers.”
In East Lothian, the council’s economic development spokesman Cllr John McMillan said they wanted to balance the population increase with more local employment opportunities to achieve an economy less dependent on people commuting outwith the county.
“The benefits of strengthening the local economy also include a greater ability to provide support to those more vulnerable including older residents.”
A West Lothian Council spokesman said the new figures showed that over the next few decades demand for services in was going to drastically increase.
“However it’s important to remember that the challenges already exist. Over the next five years in West Lothian we have an increasing number of young people of school age and an increasing number of elderly people. For example, between 2018/19 and 2022/23 the number of people aged over 75 living in West Lothian will have increased by approximately 25 per cent and the demand for social care services, and the costs associated with providing that care, is enormous.
“Scottish Government funding is insufficient to meet the growth we’re experiencing and increasing costs. West Lothian Council currently faces a budget gap of £65 million over the next five years and we have developed a plan to bridge that gap. However for all councils that means ensuring there’s a focus on providing priority services, such as schools and social care, and change or stop providing other services.”