Population of Scotland: General Summary

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Population of Scotland.— The population of Scotland on Census day, 26th April, is found to be 4,842,554, of whom 2,325,867 are males and 2,516,687 are females. At the Census of 1921 the total population was 4,882,497, of whom 2,347,642 were males and 2,534,855 females. The 1931 population is thus 39,943 less than that ascertained at the 1921 Census, the decrease of males being 21,775 and that of females 18,168. The intercensal decrease of the total population is equivalent to 0.8 per cent. of the 1921 population, that of males being 0.9 per cent. of the male population in 1921, and that of females 0.7 per cent. of the female population in 1921.

This is the first official Census of Scotland as the result of which a decrease of population falls to be recorded. The first Census was taken in 1801, and on that occasion the population was found to be 1,608,420, and as will be observed from Table II appended to this Report each successive decennial Census shewed an increase, culminating in a total population of 4,882, 497 at the Census of 1921. The largest of these increases was one of 446,456 at the Census of 1901. At the Census of 1911 the increase fell to 288,801, and at the Census of 1921 to 121,593—the smallest increase recorded till then.

From the second to the sixth Census of Scotland, i.e. those from 1811 to 1851, the intercensal rate of increase in each case exceeded 10 per cent.—the maximum of l58 per cent. being found in 1821. The 1861 Census shewed an increase of only 60 per cent. ; in 1871 the rate increased to 97 per cent., and in 1881 to 112 per cent. Tn 1891 the rate of increase fell to 78, but in 1901 it rose to 114. In 1911 it fell to 65 per cent., and a further fall to 26 per cent. was recorded in 1921.

Population of Scotland at each Census since 1801
(Expressed in Millions).

Population of Scotland at each Census since 1801

[The above diagram originally appeared on a un-numbered page between Part II and Part III of the printed report, but relates to this part of the text.]

Natural Increase.— The natural increase of the population in Scotland, i.e. the excess of registered births over registered deaths during the intercensal period, amounted to 352,386, and as a decrease of 39,943 is found in the population, 392,329 may be taken as a measure of the population lost by migration. The following Table shows the natural increase and the actual increase (or decrease) of population in each intercensal period since 1861::—


Period. Natural Increase. Intercensal Increase
or Decrease (-).
(Net Loss by Migration).
1861-1871 414,726 297,724 117,002
1871-1881 468,883 375,555 93,328
1881-1891 507,492 290,074 217,418
1891-1901 499,812 446,456 53,356
1901-1911 542,843 288,801 254,042
1911-1921 360,180 121,593 238,587
1921-1931 352,386 -39,943 392,329

It will be observed that the natural increase in 1921—1931 is smaller than in any intercensal period since 1871. From Returns furnished by the Board of Trade showing emigrants from Scotland and immigrants into Scotland to and from countries out of Europe, the balance of outward over inward migration overseas for the intercensal period is ascertained to be 328,764. The total loss by migration being as above stated 392,329, the difference amounting to 63,565 is apparently to be accounted for by the migration of Scottish population to countries not' embraced in the Board of Trade returns referred to, i.e. to other countries of the United Kingdom and of Europe.

Percentage of Increase or Decrease in the Population of
Scotland in each Inter-Censal Period since 1801.

Rate of increase or decrease of Scotland's population, 1801-1931

[The above diagram originally appeared on a un-numbered page between Part II and Part III of the printed report, but relates to this part of the text.]

Sexes.— As above indicated, the male population returned at the recent Census numbers 2,325,867, representing a decrease of 0.9 per cent. and the female population 2,516,687, a decrease of 0.7 per cent. All previous Censuses shewed an intercensal increase both of males and females, the smallest increase being 17 per cent. in the case of males and 34 per cent. in the case of females at the Census of 1921.

The number of females in the population exceeds that of males by 190,820. The excess of females over males is only 3,607 more than at the Census of 1921, but is greater than the ascertained excess at all previous Censuses—the maximum difference previously found being that of 1921, viz. 187,213. The ratio of females to males which was l08.0 females to 100 males in 1921 is now 108.2 to 100, though this ratio is not itself a maximum.

From 1831 to 1851 the excess of females over males was fairly constant, varying between 135,474 and 137,784, but in 1861 it amounted to 162,598. From then up to 1901 (except in 1891) the excess steadily diminished to 124,593, but since 1901 it has again increased, an excess of 143,226 being found in 1911 and one of 187,213 at the Census of 1921.

In the earlier Censuses 1801—1861, the excess of females over males on each occasion amounted to more than 10 per cent. of the male population, a maximum of 18.5 per cent. being found in 1811. From 1861 to 1901 this rate was a falling quantity attaining a minimum of 5.7 per cent. in the latter year. Since 1901 it has been increasing, being 6.2 in 1911, 8.0 in 1921 and 8.2 at the present Census.

Counties.— The decrease of population in Scotland ascertained at the present Census has been general in the counties. In only six out of the 33 counties (inclusive of burghs) is an intercensal increase found, amounting to 34,015 or 2.2 per cent. in the case of Lanark and 19,900 or 3.9 per cent. in Midlothian. Decreases are recorded in 27 counties, amounting to 8.4 per cent. in Orkney, 9.3 in Caithness, 9.6 in Sutherland, 11.3 in Ross and Cromarty, and 16.1 in Zetland. The counties of Argyll and Bute shew the much greater decreases of l8.0 and 44.2 per cent. respectively, but both of these counties were materially affected by the taking of the 1921 Census in the holiday month of June—the populations then returned being altogether abnormal and not admitting of comparison with the results of the present Census. The same consideration to a less extent affected the holiday areas of other counties, e.g. Ayr and Fife. Even at the recent Census the presence of visitors in appreciable numbers has been noted in the returns of certain holiday resorts.

Burghs.— The following Table shews the distribution of the population at the recent Census and at the Census of 1921 in burghal and landward groups, and the extent of the intercensal change of the population of these groups, allowing for changes of area:—


  1931. 1921. Increase or
Population. Per Cent.
of Total.
Population. Per Cent.
of Total.
Scotland 4,842,554 100.0 4,882,497 100.0 -0.8
Large Burghs 2,631,163 54.3 2,565,254 52.5 +2.6
   Four Chief Cities 1,870,257 38.6 1,799,069 36.8 +4.0
   Other Large Burghs 760,906 15.7 766,185 15.7 -0.7
Counties (exclusive of
      Large Burghs)
2,211,391 45.7 2,317,243 47.5 -4.6
   Small Burghs 730,221 15.1 769,245 15.8 -5.1
   Landward 1,481,170 30.6 1,547,998 31.7 -4.3

Of the total population of Scotland 38.6 per cent. are embraced in the four, chief cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen, 15.7 per cent. in the remainder of the 24 large burghs as defined by the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929, and 15.1 per cent. in the small burghs, giving a burghal population of 3,361,384 or 69.4 per cent. of the entire population, against 3,334,499 or 68.3 per cent. at the Census of 1921—an increase of 26,885 or 0.8 per cent. Of the 24 large burghs 15 shew an increase of population over that of 1921. The largest increases recorded are 36,890 in Glasgow, 18,734 in Edinburgh, 8,296 in Aberdeen and 7,268 in Dundee. The largest percentage increases are 7.8 in Inverness, 6.2 in Falkirk, 5.9 in Kilmarnock and 5.8 in Stirling. The largest decreases recorded are 4,945 in Dunfermline, 4,161 in Motherwell & Wishaw, 2,185 in Greenock, and 1,859 in Arbroath. The largest percentage decreases are 12.4 in Dunfermline, 9.5 in Arbroath, 6.9 in Port-Glasgow, and 6.0 in Motherwell & Wishaw and in Dumbarton. The abnormal decrease in Dunfermline is doubtless due to some extent to changed conditions at Rosyth. Some, portion of the apparent increase shown in the large burghs may be ascribed to the absence of persons on holiday at the date of the 1921 Census.

Landward Areas.— It is, however, the county areas outwith the large burghs that have contributed most markedly to the decrease in the total population. The population of the small burghs has declined from 769,245 in 1921 to 730,221 at the recent Census, representing a loss of 39,024 or 5.1 per cent. That of the landward portions of the counties has at the same time fallen from 1,547,998 in 1921 to 1,481,170 at the recent Census—a decrease of 66,828 or 4.3 per cent. Thus while the population of the burghal area of Scotland has increased by 0.8 per cent., that of the landward area has decreased by 4.3 per cent. In the period 1911 to 1921 the rates of increase for the two areas were almost identical, being 2.6 per cent. for the burghal area and 2.4 per cent. for the landward. In only four of the 33 Scottish counties is a landward increase at the recent Census recorded—one of 3,349 or 6.5 per cent. in Renfrew, 759 or 3.1 per cent. in East Lothian, 3,148 or 1.1 per cent. in Lanark, and the small one of 65 or 0.1 per cent. in Midlothian. Elsewhere in the landward areas the decrease is general, the principal percentage decreases being 9.5 in Orkney, 9.7 in Sutherland, 9.8 in Kincardine, 11.5 in Caithness, 12.0 in Ross and Cromarty, and 17.1 in Zetland. Decreases of 14.5 per cent. in the landward of Argyll and of 41.6 per cent. in the landward of Bute are, as already explained, largely due to the presence of holiday populations in 1921. It will be observed that the increases and the smaller decreases are generally in those counties in which the landward areas are to some extent of an urban or semi-urban character, and that the larger decreases are in those counties, chiefly in the North and North-West, which are more rural in character.

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