Life expectancy in Scottish areas

How does where you live affect your lifespan?

In September, NRS published life expectancy estimates which showed that a boy born in Scotland in 2014-2016 could expect to live until he was 77 years old and a girl could expect to live until she was 81 years old. Today NRS publish life expectancy in Scottish areas. These estimates show how life expectancy in different places within Scotland differs from the national figures.

We always report life expectancy separately for males and females, as women consistently outlive men. This is something which is seen not just in Scotland but all over the world in every country and population.

Between the 32 council areas in Scotland, life expectancy differs by as much as 7 years for men and 4.7 years for women. A baby boy who was born between 2014-2016 could expect to live until he was 80.3 years old if he was born in Orkney Islands. If however he was born in Glasgow City, he could only expect to reach 73.4 years old.

A baby girl on the other hand could expect to live for 83.5 years if she were born in East Renfrewshire or East Dunbartonshire, but if she were born in nearby West Dunbartonshire, she could expect to live for 78.8 years.

Enter your council area on this interactive visualisation to find out how life expectancy at birth compares to other council areas or to Scotland as a whole.

So why do we see such a difference in life expectancy across Scotland? One answer might lie in how urban or rural the area is that people live in. The Scottish Government’s ‘Urban-Rural 6 fold classification’ [*1] is a system that classifies small areas into six groups depending on the number of people living there and the distance from larger towns.

In the ‘Life Expectancy in Scottish Areas’ publication, NRS compare life expectancy for people who live in the different urban-rural areas. Both males and females live longer in more rural areas compared to more urban areas. There are many possible reasons for this, for example, air pollution is much lower in rural areas, meaning that people are less likely to develop diseases in their lungs and airways. It is also possible that people in the countryside have more active lifestyles, resulting in lower incidences of heart disease and obesity related diseases.

Blog life expectancy 1
Females could expect to live 2 years longer in ‘Remote Rural’ areas than in ‘Large Urban’ areas. Males are expected to live 3.6 years longer in ‘Accessible Rural’ areas than in ‘Large Urban’ areas.


The ‘Life Expectancy in Scottish Areas’ publication also reports on how deprivation affects life expectancy. To do this, NRS statisticians use the Scottish Government’s ‘Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation’ [*2] (SIMD) which gives each small area across Scotland a rank depending on how they score on a series of deprivation measures (i.e. access to health care, employment, income and housing availability amongst others). NRS divides these small areas into five groups based on their SIMD score and calculates life expectancy for these groups (known as quintiles).

The statistics show that males living in quintile one (which represents the 20 per cent most deprived areas of Scotland) can expect to live for 10.5 years shorter than males who live in quintile five (the 20 per cent least deprived areas). For females, there is a difference of seven years between those living in quintile one and quintile five.

Blog life expectancy 2

The difference in life expectancy between different SIMD quintiles is larger than the difference between council areas and much larger than the difference between urban and rural areas. This suggests that life expectancy in Scottish areas is more affected by deprivation than by location or rurality.

If you would like to know more about life expectancy in Scotland, please visit the NRS website. The publication ‘Life Expectancy for Areas within Scotland, 2014-2016’ includes life expectancy estimates for Council areas, Health boards and Scottish Parliamentary constituencies as well as estimates for areas by SIMD and Urban-Rural classification.

If you would like to know more about life expectancy for areas across the UK, please visit the ONS website. The ONS also produce estimates of healthy life expectancy and disability free life expectancy as part of their life expectancy publication.

Maria Kaye

Assistant Statistician

National Records of Scotland

*1 For more information on the Urban-Rural classification system, please see the ‘Defining Scotland by Rurality’ section on the Scottish government website.
*2 For more information on SIMD, please see the ‘Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation’ section on the Scottish government website.

Annual Population Survey – Estimates

How many non-British nationals are living in Scotland, and how has that changed in the year since the EU Referendum?

Today, National Records of Scotland released updated population estimates by country of birth and nationality from the Annual Population Survey (APS). These statistics provide information on the number of people living in Scotland and allow us to understand the number of residents born abroad and those with a non-British nationality. The latest data relates to July 2016 to June 2017, so we can look at how Scotland’s population has changed since the EU Referendum in June 2016.

Over the period July 2015 to June 2016 (the year preceding the referendum), there were estimated to be 337,000 non-British nationals living in Scotland, accounting for 6.4% of the population. Between July 2016 and June 2017 (the year after the referendum), there were 355,000 non-British nationals living in Scotland, accounting for 6.7% of the population. This was not a statistically significant change.

Between the year ending June 2016 and the year ending June 2017, it is estimated that the number of EU nationals living in Scotland increased by 9.5% to 219,000. Over the same period, the number of non-EU nationals is estimated to have decreased by 0.7% to 135,000. Neither of these changes were statistically significant.

Population 1

To put these numbers in context, between the year ending December 2015 and the year ending December 2016 the number of non-British nationals in Scotland increased by 14.2% from 295,000 to 337,000, with the EU and non-EU totals increasing by 28,000 and 15,000 respectively. All three of those changes were statistically significant increases. This shows that while the number of non-British nationals living in Scotland is still increasing, the rate of increase is slowing.

Of the 355,000 non-British nationals living in Scotland over the period July 2016 to June 2017, the most common nationality was Polish. It is estimated that there were 100,000 Polish nationals living in Scotland, accounting for 28% of the non-British population and 46% of the EU national population in Scotland. Polish was also the most common nationality in the year ending June 2016, when Polish nationals made up 25% of the non-British population and 43% of the EU national population of Scotland.

Population 2

Things to note

This article considers international residents in Scotland based on their nationality, as stated by respondents when they were interviewed as part of the Annual Population Survey. It should be noted that a person’s nationality can change over time, for example people may come to Scotland as an overseas national and then later apply for British citizenship. Population estimates by country of birth (which cannot change) are also available on the NRS website.

Estimates of the non-UK born and non-British nationals population living in Scotland (often referred to as migrant stocks data) are not directly comparable with estimates of long-term international migration (migrant flows data). For statistics relating to migrant flows (the number of migrants moving to or from Scotland over a period of time) please visit the NRS migration tables.

Further information

If you would like to explore the latest data included in this article, including estimates for Scotland’s council areas, please visit the Population by Country of Birth and Nationality section on the NRS website.

Daniel Burns

Assistant Statistician

National Records of Scotland


Voices from our Archives – Ewart Alan Mackintosh (1893 – 1917)

Ewart Alan MackintoshToday marks the centenary of the death on 21 November 1917 of the Scottish soldier poet Lieutenant Ewart Alan Mackintosh MC in the Battle of Cambrai.

His death is listed in ScotlandsPeople, among the Minor Records (a copy of the volume ‘Officers Died in the Great War 1914-1919’, HMSO, 1919).

Mackintosh was attached to the 1/4th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, and was killed in action during the attack by the 51st (Highland) Division at Flesquieres Ridge. This was part of a British assault on the Hindenburg Line east of Arras. Artillery and tanks were co-ordinated in a new way but the initial gains were reclaimed by a German counter-attack.

Alan Mackintosh was born in 1893 in England to Scottish parents and educated in England. His Scottish roots were strong, and shaped his outlook, his poetry and his military career. When he volunteered in 1914 he was rejected as short-sighted, but he persisted and obtained a commission in the Seaforth Highlanders, the regiment which recruited in Easter Ross, where his family had lived.

He trained and served with the 5th Battalion, and was familiarly known as “Tosh”. In 1915 he was posted to the Western Front where, on 16 May 1916, he led a successful trench raid and helped to rescue two of his wounded men. His conspicuous gallantry earned him the Military Cross and three of his men won the Military Medal.

However, he was forced to leave behind the mortally-wounded Private David Sutherland and soon poured his grief into one of his best-known poems, “In Memoriam”, modelled on a Gaelic lament. Sutherland’s will can be found among Sutherland’s will, and those of over 2,000 Seaforth Highlanders, 1914-1918, can be found among the Soldiers’ Wills in ScotlandsPeople.

Seaforth Highlanders casualtiesIn late July 1916 Mackintosh was injured and evacuated from the Somme battlefield, and spent months recovering before being posted to a training unit at Cambridge, where he fell in love with a nurse, Sylvia Marsh.

Nevertheless he chafed at being separated from his regiment and in September 1917 his wish to be posted to France was granted, although he went to a different battalion – the 1/4th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders.

Alan Mackintosh’s reputation as a war poet has been overshadowed by his better-known English and Welsh comrades. His first volume, ‘A Highland Regiment’ (1917), and the posthumous ‘War, the Liberator’ (1918), have gained some recognition. The final couplet from his poem “A Creed”, which is inscribed on the Scottish American War Memorial in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, will be more familiar than his name:

If it be life that waits I shall live for ever unconquered,

If death I shall die at last, strong in my pride and free.

Ewart Alan Mackintosh american memorial
The Scottish American Memorial, West Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh


An Archival Anniversary

Dr Murray with Bruno and Tim
Dr Athol Murray (Centre) with Bruno Longmore & Tim Ellis

At National Records of Scotland, we’re fortunate to have many experienced and long-serving members of staff but none can equal the record set by Dr Athol Murray. 

Dr Murray started working at what was then the Scottish Record Office in November 1953, at the age of 23. He still works with us now, albeit one day a week and on a voluntary basis. Today marks an amazing 64 years of continuous service, a feat that’s unlikely to be repeated and which we believe may be the longest association with archives in the United Kingdom.  

To recognise Dr Murray’s service, we have named our new meeting space at West Register House the Athol Murray Suite, in his honour.  On Tuesday at West Register House, where he still works, Dr Murray cut a ribbon in front of current and retired colleagues to officially open the new meeting space.  

Dr Murray was Keeper of the Records of Scotland between 1985-90. His career was notable for his scholarship and his dedication to the office of Keeper. He oversaw significant changes which laid the foundation for many key future developments, including improvements to local archive services and the construction of Thomas Thomson House.

He retired in December 1990 after 37 years of service but this did not mark an end to his work with the archives. He works tirelessly as a volunteer cataloguer on the records of the Scottish Exchequer, a subject on which he is an acknowledged expert. 

Dr Athol Murray with former keepers
Dr Murray (right) pictured in 2001 with two former Keepers of the Records of Scotland and one former Lord Clerk Register (see below)


Dr Murray with retired members of staff
Dr Murray with former colleagues, now retired (see below)

Dr Murray’s research has made a key contribution to furthering the wider study of Scottish history, and he estimates that he will require no more than a further thirty years to complete his current project!

Now in what he called his “anecdotage”, Dr Murray shared some fond memories of working at West Register House and other buildings.  He said that since retirement, he had enjoyed coming back to the same welcoming atmosphere to work as a volunteer.  He also remarked that it was an honour to join the ranks of former keepers who had buildings and facilities named for them, including Thomas Thomson and William Robertson, while still being alive!

Tim Ellis, Keeper of the Records of Scotland, and Chief Executive of NRS said:

“Dr Murray’s decades of work, and his dedication to the records of Scotland and the organisation which is now NRS, are unrivalled.

“On behalf of everyone at NRS, I congratulate him on this anniversary and thank him for his long and dedicated service.”

In 2013, Dr Murray was interviewed for Broadsheet, the magazine of the Scottish Council on Archives, about his life and work.  You can find the interview here.

Pictured, from L to R:
(Middle image) George MacKenzie (Keeper 2001-2012); The Earl of Wemyss & March KT (Lord Clerk Register); Patrick Cadell (Keeper 1991-2001) and Dr Murray (Keeper 1985-1990).
(Bottom image) Andrew Broom, former Deputy Keeper; Dr Hazel Horn, former Head of Catalouging and Secretary of the NRAS; George Barbour, former Head of Modern Records & Plans Officer; Dr Murray and Dr Frances Shaw, former Head of Government Records.

Voices From Our Archives – John Maclean (1879-1923)

November 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917. The revolution shocked the great powers of the day and inspired supporters around the world, including in Scotland. Their stories, like those of millions of people from Scotland’s past, can be found within the NRS archives.

John Maclean (1879-1923) was a schoolteacher in Glasgow and a prominent socialist, part of what became known as the ‘Red Clydeside’ movement. He was notable for his outspoken opposition to the First World War, advocating a combination of strikes and political action as the only way to halt the war and protect workers’ rights. Continue reading “Voices From Our Archives – John Maclean (1879-1923)”

Conservation for the Nation

Conservation close-up

“The fundamental role of the conservator-restorer is the preservation of cultural heritage for the benefit of present and future generations…”*

I remember very vividly John L. Sharpe, a rare book historian and conservator, teaching a class at my conservation course in Italy and describing conservation as a triangle with History, Science and Craft at each vertex.  14 years on, I believe that definition was absolutely spot on.  Conservation is a wonderful profession which combines very diverse skills.  It requires manual dexterity and an insightful knowledge of material science, backed up by a sound historical background.

At National Records of Scotland, conservation is taken care of by Conservation Services Branch.  We are a team of eight Conservators from different backgrounds and with a wide range of skills and expertise.  We look after the physical wellbeing of the records and we make sure that practice is applied in their care.

We work with the whole range of archive materials, including flat paper and parchment documents, bound volumes, wax seals, maps and plans, photographic material, modern material and modern media.

Conservator Andy McFarlane
An NRS conservator, thrilled by a successful treatment!


And what do we do for you?

We treat records when they are in bad condition.  We stabilise them to prevent them deteriorating further or we carry out more extensive treatments to restore their usability.  We also do a variety of other things.  Many, really!

We assess and prepare records for digital imaging, and we take care of a series of preservation activities like triaging new accessions and re-packaging.  We monitor the environment in our store rooms and we carry out surveys.  We also prepare records for exhibitions and we install and courier them when they’re on loan.  We advise our colleagues and the general public on the correct handling of cultural heritage, and offer advice on preservation and conservation to the Scottish Archives and to privately owned archives.

This specialist work by Conservators helps to preserve the national Scottish collection, which in turn makes it available to the public.

Recent projects we have worked on include preparation for the Famous Scots from the Past Exhibition – you can read about the four subjects of the exhibition here; here, here and here.  We also oversaw set-up of a new environmental monitoring system across our stores, the conservation of a Court book in very poor condition that led us to some interesting discoveries and the monitoring of vibration and dust in General Register House during the recent St. James redevelopment project.

Our studio is always very busy, and who can say what we’ll be up to, by the time this blog post is published!

Conservator Peter Dickson
Conservator Peter Dickson, going the extra mile to care for the national collection!


If you ever need to enlist the services of a conservator, or if you’d like to speak to a particular one, we recommend searching the Conservation Register.

And if you fancy finding out about conservation and preservation in more detail, then you should have a look at the *ECCO guidelines for a more in-depth description of what the role involves.

Gloria Conti ACR


National Records of Scotland

Scottish Handwriting 1500-1700

Calling all budding palaeographers!

Students wanted for evening short course at National Records of Scotland 

Archival records are amazing.  They document the lives of our ancestors, allow us to peer into past societies and record the events – big and small – that shaped our country into what it is today.

Reading old records, particularly handwritten manuscripts, can be tough.  Handwriting styles have evolved dramatically through the centuries from medieval Latin origins and readers would be forgiven for assuming that the document below was written in a strange foreign language!

Testament of William Seton.png
Testament of William Setoun, 1574, from the Edinburgh Commissary Court series.

Furthermore, the way in which people expressed themselves through written language and punctuation has changed remarkably, and perhaps in more subtle ways than you might expect.

Without the right tools and training, and without a basis palaeography skills, reading old handwriting can be extremely frustrating.

Introducing our course

To help researchers overcome this challenge, National Records of Scotland is delighted to announce our forthcoming short class in Scottish Handwriting, 1500-1700, in conjunction with University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Lifelong Learning.

Over ten weeks, we provide a crash course in palaeography – the study of old handwriting.  Skills to be taught include;

  • Practical methods for transcribing historical documents, including best practice in copying technique and staying truthful to the document’s content and structure
  • Tools and tips for recognising standard phraseology, letter forms, abbreviations, spelling and handwriting conventions of historical documents
  • Insight into Scots language and terminology
  • Tuition on understanding the context and provenance of historical documents, to aid transcription
  • Introduction to citation and how to reference original works comprehensively.
  • Insight into the art of constructing a book or document, called codicology. A hands-on exercise sees students using quills and ink to understand the methods of mark marking by scribes of centuries past.

The Records

Copies of original archival records from NRS’s vast collections dating from between the years 1500 and 1700 will be chosen for study and transcription. These will vary from church records, records of justice and court business, personal accounts, letters, and records of government.

1500-1700 was a period of profound change and development in Scotland, and the records covered in our course will touch on all manner of social and historical subjects including witchcraft, taxation, medicine and fashion. Nothing can quite match the experience of unlocking a past society by reading testimonies from that time, and our course will allow students to do just that.

Who is This Course For?

No prior experience in palaeography is necessary.  Absolute beginners are welcome!

Our course always attracts a wide variety of people. Along with family historians, under and post-graduates, archivists and local historians, the makeup of the class ensures for a lively group of people who share their knowledge and expertise.

Who Teaches The Course?

The course is led by two NRS staff members: Garth Stewart BA Hons., MA, Web Archivist, who has extensive hands-on experience with the holdings of the NRS, and Jessica Evershed Ba Hons, PG Dip, who assists readers in the Historical Search Room handling original documents.


This course takes place on Tuesday evenings between 5:30pm and 7pm, and lasts for a total of 10 weeks. Our first class is on 26th September (less than 3 weeks away!) and details of registration and course fees can be found here.

All classes are held at General Register House in central Edinburgh, home to Scotland’s national archive collection, which is preserved and made available to the public by National Records of Scotland.

GRH not for reuse
General Register House, Edinburgh, where our course is taught. Copyright


Garth Stewart

Web Archivist

National Records of Scotland

Wrapping Up Scotland’s Archives

In 2013, the Scottish Council on Archives launched a three-year traineeship scheme funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Skills for the Future programme.

The Opening Up Scotland’s Archives scheme was created to provide opportunities for individuals to gain experience working in archives, in addition to the more traditional degree and post-graduate qualification route.  At the same time a sister scheme, Transforming Archives, was launched in England and Wales by The National Archives of the United Kingdom.

Archives across Scotland have hosted trainees for a year at a time, working on projects in digital preservation, outreach and traditional archive skills.  For the past year, NRS hosted two digital preservation trainees, Penny Wright and Ruth Marr, who have been developing practical tools to assist Scottish local authorities in getting started in digital preservation.

On Tuesday 15th August the Scottish Council on Archives held an celebratory event at NRS to say a fond farewell to the trainees from all three years of the scheme.

This event began with a look at the legacy of Opening Up Scotland’s Archives and Transforming Archives, which included 56 trainees in total – 19 of them in Scotland.

Intended as a way to attract entrants to the archives sector from more diverse backgrounds, 50% of trainees had a history or an arts degree, while the other half come from a range of backgrounds including engineering, jewellery-making, TV production, computing, dance and the travel industry.

4% of Scottish trainees came from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background, while the figure in England and Wales was 21%.  The scheme has been hailed as a success in broadening diversity in the archives sector and in meeting key skills gaps.

In the afternoon Catriona Doyle, a trainee from Year Two and now Archives and Collections Assistant at Glasgow School of Art, explained how the skills and experience she gained during her traineeship consolidated her interests in working in archives and helped her to move on to the next stage of her career.  Catriona, who studied jewellery and metal design at art school, undertook an outreach project with GSA and Glasgow City Archives to promote their collections to community groups.

Catriona’s presentation was followed by short talks from the six Year-Three trainees on their projects.  You can find out about all the traineeships here.

Following a short talk by Tim Ellis, Keeper of the Records of Scotland, the Year Three trainees were presented with certificates of achievement by Beltus Ojong Etchu, HLF Committee member for Scotland.

In November 2016, Opening Up Scotland’s Archives and Transforming Archives won the Digital Preservation Coalition’s Digital Preservation Award for Teaching and Communication, sponsored by the Dutch Coalition on Digital Preservation.  The Scottish Council on Archives decided to use the cash prize to fund an award for the best trainee digital project in Scotland over the three year scheme.

The award was announced at the end of the farewell event.  Third place went to Michael MacKinnon for his project working with the Robin Marwick Albion Rovers Football Club collection at North Lanarkshire Archives.

The prize was won jointly by NRS’s own Ruth and Penny, pictured below with their projects manager Susan Corrigall, as well as Deputy Keeper Laura Mitchell and Keeper Tim Ellis.

Trainees photo

Ruth and Penny’s projects have been heartily welcomed by local authorities in Scotland, and we are very proud of what they have achieved.  The tools that they have created will be published on NRS’s website for public comment soon.

Robert Burns (1759-1796) – the Poet

Robert Burns is the last of the four Famous Scots from the Past featured in our Fringe Festival exhibition this year. With limited space available, the challenge has been to choose a single document that helps us get closer to Scotland’s national poet.

We started by considering how the official records, in which NRS is so strong, could help tell part of the poet’s remarkable life.  By contrast with other archives and libraries which look after manuscripts of his poems and songs, NRS has little direct evidence of his creative life.

Would we choose the record of his birth and baptism in the Alloway parish register (one of the thousands of pre-1855 ‘Old Parish Registers’), or look to the end of his life, using the inventory of his estate, and court records, to trace how his affairs were handled for the benefit of his widow and children? Or should we explore his career as an exciseman, which can be charted in the Exchequer and other records? Continue reading “Robert Burns (1759-1796) – the Poet”

Annual Review – Population & Migration

Each year since 1855, National Records of Scotland has published “Scotland’s Population”, providing an annual overview of the latest demographic trends. In this post, statistician Daniel Burns summarises the latest migration trends in Scotland.

Scotland’s population is at its highest recorded level of 5.4 million, growing by 5% over the past ten years. This increase has been driven by migration.

Before the turn of the century, Scotland was predominantly a country of net out-migration, with more people leaving to live elsewhere than moving to live in Scotland. A few years of net in-migration were first recorded in the early 1990’s. Since 2001, Scotland has been in a period of net in-migration with more people moving to live in Scotland than leaving. In the year to 30th June 2016, the number of people moving to Scotland exceeded the number leaving by around 31,700 (up 3,700 on the year previous). Continue reading “Annual Review – Population & Migration”