SCOTLAND’S population is set to soar to almost 5.8 million over the next 25 years, according to official projections.
And based on past figures, Edinburgh and the Lothians will see the biggest increase in numbers.
The National Records of Scotland (NRS) predicts there will be an extra 200,000 people in Scotland by 2022 and 470,000 more by 2037, taking the population to 5.78m, a nine per cent increase on the current figure.
Area-by-area projections will not be published until next year, but the most recent statistics show that between the 2011 census and mid-2012, Edinburgh, East Lothian and Midlothian each saw a 1.2 per cent increase in population, the highest in Scotland.
Registrar General and NRS chief executive Tim Ellis said: “The latest population projections indicate that Scotland’s population will be reaching record levels for years to come.
“Scotland’s population is projected to continue to rise into the future because Scotland’s birth rate and inward migration levels have remained high by historic standards and because people at older ages are expected to live longer.”
The NRS forecasts the biggest factor in Scotland’s population growth will be an influx of 380,000 new migrants in the next 25 years. Scotland has historically been a country which has seen more people leave the country than coming in. However, since 2002-03 more people have arrived than left.
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Scotland is more multi-cultural than ever before, with an increase of three percentage points in the number of people living in Scotland who were born outside the UK.
“This publication shows that Scotland’s population is projected to increase by 470,000 people over the next 25 years. I am pleased to see that 81 per cent of this increase is attributed to continuing inward net migration. The Scottish Government welcomes the contribution that new Scots will make to our economy and society.”
The projections also look at “dependency ratios” as the make-up of the population changes and predicts that by 2037 every three people of working age will have to support two dependents from the growing ranks of pensioners and children.
The overall projected dependency ratio of 66 dependents per 100 people of working age by 2037 does not take into account the unemployed, older schoolchildren, students and early retirees.
Statisticians have also produced alternative projections for higher or lower migration.
Fewer migrants will mean one extra pensioner but 1.5 fewer children to support, while more migrants will mean 1.4 fewer pensioners but just 0.3 more children to support as the ranks of working age people grow.
Latest statistics on the age structure of Scotland’s population show that last year Lothian had the lowest proportion of people over 65 – just 15.3 per cent compared to the Scottish average of 17.4 per cent and the highest, in Dumfries and Galloway, of 22.8 per cent. Lothian also had a higher proportion of its population aged 16-64 than any other part of Scotland – 67.7 per cent against an average of 65.4 per cent.