The number of births in Scotland has slumped to a 17-year low prompting fresh fears over the country’s population in a post-Brexit world.
Scotland now has the lowest fertility rate across the UK, where the birth rate has also been falling at a slower rate over the past decade.
Nicola Sturgeon has voiced fears that a post-Brexit crackdown on immigration could disproportionately hit Scotland because of the country’s lower birth rate.
The latest figures from the National Records for Scotland (NRS) reveals there were 12,821 babies born in the last three months of 2017. This is the lowest fourth-quarter total since 2000. The total births registered of 52,872 is also down by almost 2,000 on 2016 and comes after steady falls of over the past decade from a high of 60,041 in 2008.
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the figures show the importance of immigration in “tackling the long-term decline in Scotland’s population and mitigating the effects of an ageing society.”
He added: “Brexit threatens the ability of EU citizens to continue to live and work here in Scotland and puts future economic growth and the sustainability of our public services at risk.”
Nationalist Mairi Gougeon added: “Scotland’s rapidly changing demographics means we need migrants to keep our economy working.
“But Theresa May and her hard-Brexiteer colleagues are obsessed with closing the door to immigrants, no matter the damage.
“We are already seeing valued doctors and nurses leave the UK. We need an immigration system that reflects Scotland’s unique circumstances. The Scottish Parliament voted for a differentiated migration system for Scotland last year – the UK government must deliver this.”
The Scottish population is still continuing to grow but this is down to immigration, as the deaths outstrip births by 5,000 annually. Along with improved healthcare, this means that a greater proportion of older people make up the profile of the population.
This puts increasing pressure on public services, with the latest figures showing that Alzheimer’s and dementia now account for more than one in every ten deaths in Scotland – double the rate of a decade ago.
The most common cause of death was cancer, which accounted for 4,242 deaths – an increase of 5.9 per cent.