THE fertility rate in Scotland is continuing to decline and remains the lowest in the UK, according to the latest statistics on birth trends.

In 2016, there were 52.6 live births in Scotland for every thousand women aged between 15 and 44 - or 1.52 babies per woman of childbearing age.

This measure, known as the general fertility rate (GFR), has been steadily declining over the past decade and is significantly lower than other parts of the UK where higher immigration levels have contributed to higher birth rates.

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The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the average GFR in the UK was 61.7 in 2016, down from 63.3 in 2008. The decline has been sharper in Scotland - from 57.2 in 2008 to 52.6 now.

The birth rate was lowest in Edinburgh and highest in Shetland, at 43.4 and 66.9 per thousand women respectively.

The ONS statistics also show that the number of babies born outside of marriage continues to outnumber those born to couples who are married or in civil partnerships. This

In 2016, there were a total of 54,488 live births in Scotland, of which 50.9 per cent were babies born to parents who were not married or in civil partnerships. That was slightly higher than the UK average of 47.7 per cent, but lower than Wales where the rate was highest at 59.3 per cent.

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Of the 27,727 infants born outside of marriage or civil partnerships in Scotland, just over eight per cent were to single mothers - known as "sole registrations" - and 22 per cent were to parents who did not live at the same address.

Scotland had the lowest rate of births to single mothers in the UK. It was highest in England and Northern Ireland - both 11 per cent - and was 10 per cent in Wales.