SCOTS are putting off the big decisions in life such as starting a family or getting married because of fears about the economic climate, a leading academic has said.

Population expert and economist Professor Robert Wright, of Strathclyde University, said new figures which show a fall in the number of births indicate there is no light at the end of the tunnel for people's financial woes.

The statistics, published by the National Records of Scotland yesterday, show births in Scotland decreased by 6.2% in the first three months of the year, compared with the same period in 2012.

According to the figures, there were 13,863 babies registered between January and March, 909 fewer than the same three months in 2012.

The number of births showed a slight gender imbalance, with 7167 boys born to 6696 girls in the first quarter of 2013.

The number of marriages has stayed stable at 3258, just three more than during the same period in 2012.

Between January and March there were 63 civil partnerships (29 male and 34 female), 20 fewer than during the first quarter of 2012.

Professor Wright said: "The fact marriages have not gone up while births are falling shows there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the recession which is putting people off settling down and starting a family.

"The trend has remained in place since the start of the recession and this is an indication that things have not changed in people's minds.

"The bad times are still continuing to bite, and this has been going on for a number of years now. So its no real surprise there's been little change in the figures."

Aside from a falling birth rate, the number of deaths has risen for the first time in five years.

The provisional statistics show there were 15,090 deaths registered between January and March, and increase of 870 on the same period of 2012.

This marks a change in the historic trend, as it follows five successive decreases in the first quarter totals for deaths, from 15,820 in 2007 to 14,220 in 2012.

Deaths from cancer fell by 1.2% to 3853, deaths from coronary heart disease fell by 0.8% to 1934 and there were 1250 deaths from stroke, a rise of 7.6%.

Lung cancer remains the most deadly form of the disease, accounting for more than 1000 deaths in Scotland, followed by breast cancer for women and prostate cancer for men.

Two men and four women died from HIV, while four people died after contracting tuberculosis.

Tim Ellis, chief executive of the National Records of Scotland, said: "Today's statistics show a fall in the number of births registered, with fewer than in the first quarter of each of the years from 2007 to 2011, inclusive. The number of births had been tending to decline gradually since 2008.

"The number of deaths rose to the highest quarterly total since the first quarter of 2007. The number of deaths had been generally falling until 2011. Each of the last four quarters have had more deaths than in the same quarter of the previous year."