Population of Scotland: General Summary

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Population of Scotland.— The population of Scotland on the day of the census, the 8th April, 1951, was found to be 5,095,969. This is the highest population recorded in Scotland since the first census was taken in 1801.

Until 1931 it was customary to take a census every ten years, but because of the Second "World War no census was taken in 1941. An interval of twenty years had elapsed between the census of 1931 and that taken in April last. It should therefore be kept in mind, in comparing the figures produced by this census with those of 1931 or of any earlier censuses, that the interval between it and the previous census was twice as long as the intervals that separated successive censuses up to 1931.

The population established by the census of 1951 shows an increase of 252,989 over that ascertained at the census of 1931. This is equivalent to an increase of 5.2 per cent. on the population of 1931.

The increase of the population since 1931 resumes the series of intercensal increases that held good from 1801 and was broken only at the census of 1931. When the first census was taken in 1801 the population of Scotland was 1,608,420. As indicated by the figures in Table II in this report, each census thereafter showed an increase in the population, which rose to a figure of 4,882,497 in 1921. The largest increase, 446,456, was in the ten years preceding the census of 1901. The next ten years contributed a much smaller increase of 288,801, and the ten years to 1921 a still smaller one of 121,593. According to the census of 1931 the population for the first time since 1801 showed a decrease amounting to 39,517.

The increase of 252,989 since the census of 1931 would have been materially greater but for the losses sustained by the population of Scotland in the Second World War which, taking the losses in the forces and in the civilian population together, are estimated to be in the region of 40,000. It should also be kept in mind, in considering any figures based on a comparison of 1931 with 1951, that the strength of the armed forces is considerably greater today and that many more are serving outside Scotland. The census of course takes account only of population within the country.

Natural Increase.— The natural increase of a population is measured by the excess of births over deaths. The number of registered births in Scotland between the census of 1931 and the recent census was 1,849,338. The number of registered deaths in the same period was 1,313,045. Allowance must, however, be made for losses in the forces and the mercantile marine outside Scotland during the Second World War. These are approximately estimated at 34,000, making the total deaths 1,347,045. The natural increase of the population is therefore estimated at 502,293.

It is estimated that between the censuses of 1931 and 1951 there was an excess outward migration from Scotland of some 220,000 persons. The following Table shows the natural increase and the actual increase or decrease of population in each of the intercensal periods since 1861, and indicates also the net estimated loss by migration.


Period. Natural Increase. Intercensal Increase
or Decrease (-).
Estimated 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 -39,517 391,903
1931-1951 502,293 252,989 220,000

Sexes.— The population of 5,095,969 returned at the recent census was made up of 2,434,749 males and 2,661,220 females.

The male population shows an increase of 109,226 or 4.7 per cent. over that of 1931; the female population shows an increase of 143,763 or 5.7 per cent. It is in line with the experience at all previous censuses except that of 1931, which established a decrease in the population, to find an intercensal increase both of the male and female populations.

The percentage increases or decreases recorded at recent censuses in the male and female population were as follows:

Census Males.
Per cent.
Per cent.
1901 +11.9 +10.3
1911 +6.2 +6.7
1921 +1.7 +3.4
1931 -0.9 -0.7

In each of the intercensal periods from 1861 to 1901 the percentage rate of increase was greater for males than for females, but in the decennial periods ending in 1911 and 1921 the rate of increase was greater for females than for males. In the ten years to 1031, when there was a fall in the population, the rate of decrease was lower for females than for males.

The 1951 results follow the recent trend, the rate of increase of the female population being greater than that of the male. The ratio of females to males is 109.3 to 100. This is the highest ratio of females to males since 1871.

The female population exceeds the male by 226,471. That is the highest excess recorded in any census. The next highest was in 1931, when females outnumbered males by 191,934. The smallest excess was in 1901, when the male population came within 124,593 of the female population. The proportion by which the female population exceeds the male population fluctuates a good deal, however, and shows no definite trend.

Distribution of Population.— The following table shows, by numbers and proportions, how the population of Scotland was distributed between the cities, large burghs., small burghs and the landward areas of counties at the recent census and at the previous census of 1931. Where boundaries of local government areas have been altered, the 1931 figures are adjusted to refer to the areas as altered.


  1951 1931
Population. Per cent.
of total.
Population. Per cent.
of total.
Scotland 5,095,969 100 4,842,980 100
Cities 1,916,372 37.6 1,8979,329 38.8
Large Burghs 828,094 16.2 772,997 16.0
Small Burghs 818,893 16.1 742,656 15.3
Aggregate of Cities, Large Burghs and Small Burghs 3,563,359 69.9 3,394,982 70.1
Landward Areas 1,532,610 30.1 1,447,998 29.9

(NOTE.—Making no allowance for changes of boundary since 1931, and taking the local government areas as they actually were then and in 1951, the proportion of the population in the cities and burghs (69.9 per cent.) is a little higher than it was in 1931 (69.4 per cent) In figures this increase is 201,730. The corresponding increase in the landward areas is 51,259).

COUNTIES.—Of the thirty three counties of Scotland, twenty three show increases of population and ten show decreases. The most populous counties are now Lanark, Midlothian, Renfrew, Ayr, Aberdeen and Fife in that order. The largest increases in numbers are in Midlothian, 39,450; Renfrew, 36,661; Ayr, 35,967;. and Fife, 30,487. The greatest percentage increases in the counties are in Kincardine, 18.8 per cent.; Moray, 18.1; and Clackmannan, 17.5. The largest population decreases recorded are in Banff, 4,772; Caithness, 2,951; Sutherland, 2,437; and Ross & Cromarty, 2,296. The counties showing the greatest percentage decreases are Sutherland, 15.1; Caithness, 11.5; and Zetland, 9.7.

CITIES AND BURGHS.—The greatest increases in population in the cities and large burghs of Scotland occur in Edinburgh, 27,760; Aberdeen, 12,911; Dunfermline, 9,652; Perth, 5,406; and Paisley, 5,320. The largest percentage increases are in Dunfermline, 27.5 per cent.; Inverness, 19.4 per cent.; Perth, 15.4 per cent.; and Dumfries, 14.4 per cent.

The only decreases occur in Glasgow where there is a relatively small decrease of 3,782 or 0.3 per cent.; and in Greenock, Clydebank and Rutherglen with decreases of 2,713 (3.4 per cent.), 2,408 (5.1 per cent.) and 957 (3.8 per cent.) respectively.

The smallest of the large burghs is Arbroath with a population of 19,503, the next being Port Glasgow with 21,612. The largest of the small burghs are Buckhaven and Methil, 20,154; Renfrew, 17,093; and Musselburgh, 17,012. The smallest of the small burghs are New Galloway, 305; Inveraray, 503; and Culross, 578.

LANDWARD AREAS.—These show an increase of 84,612, or 5.8 per cent., over the same geographical areas in 1931. The percentage of the population enumerated in these areas is 30.1, against 29.9 in the same areas (or 30.6 in the landward areas as they were) in 1931.

The landward populations show increases in 14 of the counties of Scotland, and decreases in 19 counties. Most of the counties showing increases are situated in the central industrial belt of the country. In the north all the counties show decreases except Angus, Moray and Kincardine; and in the south the only county showing an increase in the landward population is Peebles.

The largest increases in the landward population occurred in Renfrew, 26,856 (52.3 per cent.); Lanark, 18,872 (6.6 per cent.); Dumbarton, 12,638 (24.8 per cent.); Stirling, 11,260 (14.7 per cent.) and Ayr, 11,194 (9.2 per cent.).

The largest percentage increases occurred in Renfrew, 52.3 per cent.; Clackmannan, 42.6 per cent.; Dunbarton, 24.8 per cent., and Moray, 21.1 per cent.

The largest decreases occurred in Ross & Cromarty, 3,968 (7.7 per cent.); Banff, 3,217 (12.9 per cent.); Caithness, 2,821 (18.6 per cent.); Sutherland, 2,505 (16.3 per cent.); and Argyll, 2,444 (6.1 per cent.).

The largest percentage decreases occurred in Caithness, 18.6 per cent.; Sutherland, 16.3 per cent.; Zetland, 14.3 per cent.; Banff, 12.9 per cent.; and Orkney, 9.2 per cent.

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