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Highland Population Rising Due To Inward Migration

27th April 2009

The General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) has today published their mid year estimates for 2008. They show that the population of Highland rose from 217,440 in 2007 to 219,400 in 2008, an increase of 1,960 or 0.9%. The components of this change are shown in the graph but in summary:

* There were 2,363 births and 2,327 deaths giving a natural change of +36. This is the first year that births have exceeded deaths since 1996/97 and follows the trend of an increasing number of births per year in Highland since 2002.

* The population increase is mainly the result of continuing high levels of inward migration to Highland since 2002, and the net inflow was +1,924 people. This was the fifth successive year in which inward migration was around 2,000 people.

Impact of the Economic Recession: The figures show that inward migration to Highland remained strong during the early part of the recession. However, the volume of house sales is a good barometer of migration and the number of sales per month fell from 300 to 400 per month during the first part of 2008 to under 200 per month during the first two months of 2009. This compares with a peak of 500 per month during much of 2007. It is likely that the high rate of net inward migration will not continue in the short term.

Have the migrants come from the A8 Accession States?
The population estimates use international definitions of migrants and exclude all people known to be moving for a period of less than 12 months. This is likely to exclude many workers from the A8 states when they first arrive in the UK.

For information, 1,530 workers registered in Highland between mid 2007 and 2008, and 145 dependents were recorded. No record is kept of the numbers who return home but we believe that the total population in Highland - including dependents, workers remaining for a long time and a pool which in which returners are replaced by new migrants - is around 3,500. Many of these will not have been included in the published figures.

Where did the migrants come from?
The full detail will not be available for 12 months or so but the pattern over recent years has been for the balance of migration with the rest of Scotland to be neutral with around 4,500 people moving each year in each direction. Most net inward migration comes fro the rest of the UK (typically around 4,000 inward migrants and 2,000 outward migrants each year) with a low rate of net inward migration form the rest of the world (between 1,000 and 1,500 people moving in each direction).

Will the rising birth rate continue?
The increase in the number of births per year in Highland since 2002 is consistent with general trends in the rest of Scotland. The underlying trend (ie the number of births per year per 1,000 women in each age group) is expected to remain fairly constant but the Highland population is ageing and the actual number of births per year will inevitably fall. There will be year on year variations in the number of births and deaths but the natural trend is for our population to decline unless inward migration can keep pace.

Is the picture consistent across Highland?
Estimates of the population living in small areas will be published later in the year and we won't know for sure until then. However, it is likely that the trends of recent years will have continued with strong growth in the Inner Moray Firth area, modest growth elsewhere and stability or gentle decline in Sutherland and Caithness.

Details from Report prepared by Planning and Development Service of Highland Council.

The Overall Latest Scottish Population Results
The estimated population of Scotland was 5,168,500 in mid-2008. This was a rise of 24,300 on the previous year.

Commenting on the publication of "Mid-2008 Population Estimates, Scotland", Registrar General for Scotland Duncan Macniven said:

"Scotland's population continued to rise in the year ending in June 2008. The increase was slightly less than in the previous year - over 24,000 rather than over 27,000. But births exceeded deaths by almost 4,000, almost 4 times as much as the previous year. Migration accounted for the remaining increase - but that was less than the record 27,000 net migration in 2006-07.

"Net migration from the rest of the UK was up on the previous year - 11,500 compared with 8,800. But international migration was down from a net 16,800 to a net 7,700, mainly because of an increase in the number of people leaving Scotland."

Main findings
The estimated population of Scotland on 30 June 2008 was 5,168,500, a rise of 24,300 on the previous year and the highest since 1981;

Between mid-2001 and mid-2008, Scotland's population increased by 2.1 per cent (+104,300) from 5.06 million to 5.17 million;

Between mid-1998 and mid-2008, Scotland's population increased by 1.8 per cent (+91,430) from 5.08 million to 5.17 million;

In the twelve months up to 30 June 2008, the number of births exceeded the number of deaths by 3,900, the largest natural increase since 1991-92;

Over the year there was a net migration gain of 20,000 people. This includes net gains of 11,500 people from the rest of the UK, 7,700 people from overseas (including asylum seekers) and 800 people from the armed forces;

Over the year 38,500 people (including asylum seekers) came to Scotland from overseas and 30,800 left Scotland to go overseas. The net gain of 7,700 is lower than the record gain of 16,800 in 2006-07 because more people left Scotland;

The net gain from the rest of the UK exceeded that from overseas. Over the year 53,300 people came to Scotland from England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 41,800 left Scotland to go in the opposite direction. The net gain of 11,500 is greater than the previous year's 8,800 net gain because more people came to Scotland and fewer left;

Among Council areas, between mid-2007 and mid-2008, East Lothian had the largest percentage population increase at +1.8 per cent followed by Perth & Kinross (+1.4 per cent) and Midlothian (+1.3 per cent). Argyll & Bute had the largest percentage population decrease at -0.9 per cent, followed by Eilean Siar and Inverclyde each with a percentage decrease of -0.4 per cent;

Among NHS Board areas, Lothian (+1.0 per cent), Borders (+0.9 per cent) and Grampian (+0.8 per cent) had the largest percentage population increases. The only NHS Board area to have experienced a decline in population was Western Isles (-0.4 per cent);

In the year to mid-2008, the city Council areas experienced net losses of migrants to the rest of Scotland. However, more migrants came to the city Council areas from both the rest of the UK and from overseas than went in the other direction;

There were 66 people per square kilometre in Scotland, ranging from 9 persons per square kilometre in Eilean Siar and Highland Council areas to 3,329 persons per square kilometre in Glasgow City Council area.

For more details on the overall Scotish Population and other areas results go to

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