The Scottish Government said growth in Scotland’s population will slow significantly if levels of EU migration are reduced.
New figures from the National Records of Scotland show that Scotland’s population is projected to rise from 5.40 million in 2016 to 5.58 million in 2026, and to continue to rise to 5.69 million in 2041 — an increase of 5% over that 25 year period.
All the projected increase in Scotland’s population over the next 10 years is due to net in-migration — 58% from overseas with 42% from the rest of the UK.
However, if EU migration to Scotland falls to half of current levels, Scotland’s population is projected to rise by just 4% over the same period.
And in an “illustrative scenario” with no future EU migration, the population of Scotland is projected to rise by only 2% by 2041, peaking in 2032 and declining until 2041.
In this scenario, Scotland’s working age population is projected to decline by 3% over the next 25 years, while at the same time the pensionable age population is projected to increase by 25%, resulting in an increase in the dependency ratio.
External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “These figures illustrate the critical importance of maintaining inward migration to Scotland — including maintaining the existing freedom of movement with European neighbours — to help increase Scotland’s population and grow the economy.
“As our population ages, the continued availability of labour from across Europe is essential to meet our economic and social needs and to address potential skills shortages in all sectors of the labour market.
“The stark reality outlined in today’s figures is that projected growth in Scotland’s population will slow significantly if levels of EU migration are reduced.
“And in that scenario the population is also predicted to start declining again within the next 25 years.
“That would have a significant negative impact on Scotland’s economy and our ability to fund the public services we will need for an ageing population.”
The figures also show that Scotland’s population is projected to continue ageing.
Between 2016 and 2041, the population of pensionable age in Scotland is projected to rise from 1.05 million to 1.32 million, an increase of 25%.
Tim Ellis, the Registrar General of Scotland, said: “The latest population projections show Scotland’s population is projected to continue to increase and to age over the next 25 years.
“The rise in population is driven by projected migration into Scotland both from rest of the UK and from overseas, while the number of deaths is projected to exceed the number of births every year.
“Over the period we also expect to see the number of people of pensionable age increase by 25 per cent, while the number of people of working age will increase by one per cent and the number of children will decrease by two per cent.”
Natural change — the number of births minus the number of deaths — is projected to be negative in each year of the projection.
By 2041 it is projected that there will be more than 10,000 more deaths than births each year.
The number of people aged 75 and over is projected to increase by 27% over the next ten years and increase by 79% over the next 25 years to 2041.
Between 2016 and 2041, the population of pensionable age is projected to rise from 1.05 million to 1.32 million, an increase of 25%, while the number of children is projected to decrease from 0.92 million to 0.90 million (reduction of 2%) over the same period.
This compares to an increase in the working age population from 3.43 million in 2016 to a peak of 3.59 million in 2028 (an increase of 5%).
It is then projected to decline to 3.47 million by 2041. Overall there is a 1% projected increase in people of working age over the 25 year period.