MARRIAGES in Scotland have risen for the third year in a row to the highest level since 2005, according to the latest statistics.

Part of the rise is down to an increase in humanist weddings, with celebrants from the Humanist Society of Scotland now officiating at more ceremonies than Roman Catholic clergy.

There were 30,354 marriages in 2012, up 4.8% in a year, new data for 2012 produced by the National Records of Scotland found.

But the NRS say the number of marriages is still "relatively low" historically when compared to the 40,000 marriages a year that was the norm in the early 1960s.

Just over half of all marriages were civil ceremonies carried out by a registrar - compared with just under one third in 1971.

The largest number of religious marriages were carried out by Church of Scotland ministers, who officiated at 18% of ceremonies, the data for 2012 showed.

Celebrants with the Humanist Society of Scotland, authorised to carry out marriages since 2005, officiated at more than 10% of marriages in 2012. The Catholic church carried out 6%.

There were 58,027 births registered in Scotland in 2012, 1% fewer than in 2011 - the fourth year that the number of births has fallen.

There was a 2.4% rise in deaths with nearly 5000 recorded in 2012. Despite the rise, it was the fourth lowest number of deaths recorded in more than 150 years.

Main causes of death were cancer - 15,864, 2.6% more than in 2011. Heart disease caused 7541 deaths, 1.2% fewer than in 2011.

Registrar general NRS chief executive Tim Ellis said: "In recent years, there have been more births than deaths in Scotland. This was still the case in 2012, but the gap has narrowed again, with a slight decline in the number of births and a slight increase in the number of deaths."