Our statisticians Daniel, Esther and Alan are on the telly this evening, and this is why you should watch…

Senior assistant statistician Daniel Burns

A new two-part BBC documentary aims to answer the question: Who Lives in Scotland? by taking a dive into our data. Who lives in your street, your town, your council area and Scotland as a whole might feel like none of your business but it has profoundly important implications for your life and your future.

Who Lives in Scotland? notes that Scotland’s population of more than 5.4 million, is the highest it’s ever been, and that beneath that headline statistic there are dozens more reflecting the constant change of population. In the show, a couple welcomes their new-born baby into their family – still an everyday event but one that happens far less frequently than it once did. The fertility rate has been falling and if it wasn’t for immigration from the rest of the UK and internationally, our population would be declining too. Even with immigration at similar levels to recent years, our projections suggest the population could start to fall slightly at the end of this decade.

Dig deeper and the changes are even more stark. If current trends continue, we could see an increase of almost 30% in the number of people aged over 65 by the middle of 2045 and a decline of 22% in the number of children. That will have implications for the delivery of all services but especially for health centres, hospitals and schools.

We see change at local level too. The programme features a couple from England who are running a local shop in the north west. They are not alone. Almost 20% of the adult population of the Highlands was born in England. That’s nearly double the national figure.

Since the programme was made, we’ve seen an update on the statistics for population change at local level. There has been a long term trend away from rural areas and towards cities. However, last year we found a small decline in the populations of our largest cities while some rural areas saw a reverse in their downward trend. This appears to be the impact of disruption due to the pandemic, with students returning home temporarily and some people choosing to relocate permanently, potentially freed up by the ability to work from home. Might it all change again next year? Only time and the statistics will tell, so keep an eye on our website as the story unfolds.

Episode one of Who Lives in Scotland? airs Tuesday 25 October on BBC 1 Scotland at 9pm and will be available to catch up on iPlayer. The second episode is due in the same slot next week.

Want more statistics? This year’s Scotland’s Population report looks at themes from across the range of reports we produce Scotland’s Population 2021 (nrscotland.gov.uk) and is an excellent place to start.

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