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Scotland's Census 2022 - Rounded population estimates


A National Statistics Publication for Scotland

Published: 14 September 2023

Download the data used in this release

"Scotland’s population grew to 5.4 million in 2022. This is the largest population ever recorded by Scotland’s Census."

Jon Wroth-Smith, Director of Census Statistics, National Records of Scotland

Population of Scotland

On Census Day, 20 March 2022, the population of Scotland was estimated to be 5,436,600. This is the largest population ever recorded by Scotland’s Census.

The population grew by 141,200 (2.7%) since the previous census in 2011. This is a slower rate of growth than between 2001 and 2011, when the population grew by 233,400 (4.6%).

The other UK censuses showed higher rates of population growth than in Scotland. In England and Wales the population increased by 6.3% between 2011 and 2021. In Northern Ireland the population increased by 5.1% over the same period.

Population change is driven by births, deaths and migration (people moving into or out of Scotland).

Since the 2011 census there were around 585,000 births and 634,800 deaths registered in Scotland. Without migration the population would have decreased by around 49,800. But the population has grown because more people moved to Scotland than moved out.

There were 2,794,900 (51.4%) females and 2,641,800 (48.6%) males. This is similar to 2011 when the census showed 51.5% of the population was female and 48.5% was male.

Working with census statistics

Census statistics represent the total population rather than just those who completed the questionnaire. Since the 2001 censuses, statistical modelling has been used across the United Kingdom to produce total population estimates from census responses.

As with all estimates, there is a level of uncertainty. Users should consider uncertainty when working with census estimates. For example:

  • Where population estimates show change since previous censuses smaller than +/-1%, this should be interpreted as minimal change rather than as an increase or decrease.
  • Where differences between council areas are smaller than +/-1%, the areas should be interpreted as having a similar population size.

Further information on how we have managed uncertainty is provided in the More information on quality section. This includes more detail on how we measure uncertainty and the work we have done to account for the lower than expected response rate.

"Scotland’s population is ageing. The census shows we now have a lot more people aged 65 and over than people under 15."

Jon Wroth-Smith, Director of Census Statistics, National Records of Scotland

Ageing population

Scotland’s population is ageing. There are more people in the older age groups than ever recorded in Scotland's Census. There are now over one million people aged 65 and over (1,091,000). This is over a quarter of a million higher than the number of people under 15 (832,300).

Other countries are seeing similar trends. Recent censuses in the rest of the UK and in several other G7 countries showed that their populations are ageing too.

In Scotland the 65 and older age group (65+) saw a large increase compared to 2011:

  • 0 to 14 year old population decreased by 21,800 (down 2.5%)
  • 15 to 64 year old population decreased by 37,700 (down 1.1%)
  • 65+ population increased by 200,700 (up 22.5%)

The 65+ population increased in other UK countries too. In England and Wales the 65+ population increased by 20.0% between 2011 and 2021. In Northern Ireland the 65+ population increased by 23.8% over the same period.

The chart below shows the population by five-year age groups and sex. The female population is shown on the left with males on the right. The bars show population data from the 2022 census.

There are more females than males overall and particularly in the older age groups. This reflects the fact that females live longer on average.

The outline drawn over the bars shows the population data from the 1921 census. We can see that the 2022 age structure is much narrower at the bottom and wider at the top. This shows how Scotland's age structure has changed over time. Scotland has fewer young people and more older people in 2022.

The main reasons for Scotland’s ageing population are:

  • people born in the post-war baby boom getting older
  • the number of births dropping since the 1960s
  • people living longer

"People aged 65 and over outnumber people under 15. It is important that we understand how our population is ageing so we can prepare for it. These changes will put greater demand on health and social care services."

Jon Wroth-Smith, Director of Census Statistics, National Records of Scotland

Population in council areas

The population increased in 17 council areas between 2011 and 2022. The population decreased in 10 council areas over the same period. There were 5 council areas that saw minimal change.

The council area that saw the largest increase was Midlothian (up 16.1%) while Na h-Eileanan Siar saw the biggest decrease (down 5.5%).