Edinburgh's population has grown 13 per cent in a decade amid 'pressure' warning over further growth

The Capital’s population has rocketed by 13 per cent in the last decade – while an expected boom continuing could put “significant pressure” on services and infrastructure, a charity has warned.

Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 6:00 am
Edinburgh's population is set to grow further to 2041 as people including Dr Amin Amin and Mary Spillane head to the Capital.

A new study by council bosses, Edinburgh By Numbers, has revealed that in the 10 years to 2018, the Capital’s population grew by 13.1 per cent from 459,000 to 519,000 – while Scotland’s overall population only grew by 4.5 per cent over the same period. From 1998 to 2008, Edinburgh’s population grew by just 2.8 per cent.

Despite the rising population, the city has a higher percentage of the working age population in employment than any other major UK city at almost 78 per cent.

Council chiefs have welcomed the news but are focusing on a long-term strategy to manage an expected population of 583,150 by 2041 – through a £2.5 billion housebuilding programme and encouraging more people to use public transport through interlinked transport, planning and zero-carbon strategies.

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Retiring couple Dr Amin Amin and Mary Spillane moved into the city centre.

Cllr Adam McVey, council leader, said: “The report demonstrates that the Capital is growing, prosperous, successful and competitive in a global context. Our economic and business indicators are some of the strongest outside of London and our employment market remain resilient. Unemployment in the year to March 2019 was 3.6 per cent – lower than any other major UK city.

“Of course, with Edinburgh’s population growing by 13 per cent in the last decade as well as a growing region and more wanting to visit, our infrastructure and services can feel pressure.

“We’re determined to respond to and manage this level of growth in terms of the impact on housing, transport and other front-line services. We’re progressing a transient visitor levy, as well as our game-changing city centre transformation plans, to make Edinburgh as pleasant, accessible and sustainable a place to live as it can be.”

But despite the cheery outlook, the document also warns that by 2041, the proportion of dependants, the elderly and children, will exceed those working in Edinburgh. The dependency rate is expected to increase to 50.6 per cent in 2036 and 51.2 per cent by 2041.

The number of residents aged over 75 is expected to rocket by 76 per cent from 2018 to 2041.

Age Scotland has warned that Edinburgh’s growing elderly population could mean older people become isolated without proper investment in support.

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Brian Sloan, Age Scotland’s chief executive, said: “It’s clearly good news that we are living longer, with more and more older people calling Edinburgh home. But we need to ensure we have the resources and services to provide for this, from investing in social care to community groups, accessible public transport and public toilets.

“Unfortunately the city is facing significant pressure in the face of this demographic shift. We urgently need to invest more, not less, in supporting older residents now and into the future.

“We need to invest in community services to make sure that every older person can enjoy a good quality of life, not reduce them. A lack of investment will have a serious impact on health and well-being and leave more older people feeling isolated. Loneliness is reaching epidemic proportions, and we estimate there’s at least one chronically lonely older person living on every street in our Capital.”

Edinburgh’s jobs market has established itself with a strong national reputation of low unemployment, high wages, and skilled workforce.

Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Liz McAreavey, said: “Edinburgh’s population growth – with more to come according to projections – is in itself indicative of a city that is seen as a strong and vibrant place in which to live and work. However, while growth undoubtedly presents the city with opportunities it does also create some challenges.

“Figures show Edinburgh is in a very good position in terms of economic performance. The city has always had a strong financial services sector and tourism economy which has positioned us as a global city and continues to promote us internationally.

But Ms McAreavey warned that a clear economic strategy and clear planning rules “will be critical for our long-term success”.

She added: “We need to continue to attract global investors and corporates to locate in Edinburgh, attract talent to take advantage of the digital opportunities that are coming, and manage our tourism sector to ensure we maintain our international position as one of the ‘best small cities in the world’.

“Being successful can lead to complacency – we must never assume that it is a given that our success will continue. Leadership and partnership is essential to a successful future, and that means a future that will deliver a fair and inclusive economy in a city that puts the environment and sustainability at the heart of our success.”

The city’s poverty commission is currently gathering evidence in a bid to lift around 80,000 people who call Edinburgh home, out of poverty – with a key aim to ensure that every citizen share’s in the city’s successes.

Garry Clarke, development manager for the east of Scotland at the Federation of Small Businesses, added: “It’s great news for the local economy that Edinburgh has a growing population with a very high level of economic participation. Edinburgh is also home to over 18,500 small businesses, which turn over in excess of £8 billion annually.

“Our capital city is the beating heart of the Scottish economy but we need to work hard to sustain this and to ensure that the benefits of the wealth that is being generated among our citizens are felt by as many citizens as possible.”

Capital’s bid to build more homes

Housing chiefs will spend £2.5bn over the next 10 years to build thousands of new affordable homes – while improving the authority’ current crop of accommodation.

Edinburgh City Council’s housing revenue account strategy up to 2030 was agreed by councillors last month – labelled “one of the most ambitious” projects expected to take place across the UK.

The proposals, to be formally approved when the authority sets its budget on February 20, include a commitment to build 5,000 new council homes, available as social rent – while another 5,000 homes will be provided at regeneration projects including at Granton, Fountainbridge and Meadowbank.

At the moment, more than 70 per cent of new social rentals by the council are allocated to homeless households – with the strategy to build more homes being a key method of helping to reduce the number of homeless people in the Capital. Since 2015, the average number of bids for social rented housing has ranged between 150 to 200 per home. Last year, more than 12,000 people were on the waiting list for a one-bed council house amid concern it would take five years to clear the backlog.

Housing, homelessness and fair work convener, Cllr Kate Campbell, said: “With an investment of £2.5bn over ten years, this is undoubtedly one of the most ambitious plans for council housing of any local authority in the UK.

“We need to address the huge housing pressures facing our city and we’re doing this with one of the biggest new build programmes in Scotland. We’re investing in existing homes and improving services for tenants – and we have built in assumptions on how to achieve net zero carbon by 2030.”

Couple moved back into city centre

A retiring couple have spoken out about choosing to move into the city centre in their later years – having downsized and been attracted by what Edinburgh has to offer.

Husband and wife, Dr Amin Amin and Mary Spillane, moved into their new home at The Crescent by CALA Homes last year. The couple looked to downsize from their five-bedroom family home in Dunfermline, also built by CALA, settling into a modern, two-bedroom apartment at The Crescent.

Dr Amin, a semi-retired doctor, said: “The new home is very nice, it’s very central and in the middle of the city. You can walk anywhere and public transport is great so you don’t have to drive to get anywhere – so we really enjoy it from that aspect. This is why we moved form the country – it’s just ideal for us.”

The number of Edinburgh residents over the age of 65 is expected to rocket to 117,000 by 2041. But Dr Amin isn’t worried by the Capital expected to grow significantly over the next two decades and the impact that could have on residents.

He added: “Edinburgh is a small manageable city – you can go anywhere and there’s a lot of attractions like museums and culture which draws into the city.

“Folk worry about it getting too busy but I think the city is managed reasonably well and hopefully the transport will improve like with the new tram when it is up and running.”