This indicator measures the number of council areas experiencing population decline.

The Scottish Government has set up a Ministerial Taskforce on Population to tackle Scotland’s population challenges which includes the issue of depopulation in some areas of Scotland.


The data for this indicator are published in the Mid-year Population Estimates by National Records of Scotland (NRS). These are national statistics.

The population estimates relate to the usually resident population, whatever their nationality.

Population estimates for mid-2002 onwards are based on the 2011 Census, and are updated annually to take account of births, deaths and migration.

Annual population estimates are produced using the demographic cohort component method. Each year the population is aged on by one year (the 0 year olds become 1 year olds and so on). The population is then updated for the components of change by adding the number of births, subtracting the number of deaths and adjusting for estimated net migration and other changes.

The population estimates for Scotland and council areas are usually published in annually in the Mid-year Population Estimates publication.

Population estimates for small areas (data zones) across Scotland are usually published in August following the release of mid-year population estimates. These small area population estimates are also aggregated to produce population estimates of Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation deciles, electoral wards, parliamentary constituencies, and urban and rural areas.


Usually resident population: People intending to live in Scotland for a period of at least 12 months.

Net migration: The difference between the number of people entering the country and the number of people leaving. Short term international migrants are excluded.

Other changes: This includes changes in the prison population, changes in the number of armed forces personnel based in Scotland and rounding adjustments.

Population decline: An area is said to be experiencing population decline when the annual population change is negative (the population has decreased).

Mid-year: Population as at 30 June.

Criteria for recent change arrow:

The performance arrow is assigned based on the performance of one measure.

  • If the number of council areas experiencing population decline is decreasing, then a performance improving arrow is assigned.

  • If the number of council areas experiencing population decline stays the same, a performance maintaining arrow is assigned.

  • If the number of council areas experiencing population decline is increasing, a performance worsening arrow is assigned.

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