THE number of births in Scotland has fallen to a new record low, underscoring the country’s reliance on migration to maintain its population.

Provisional figures from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) showed the birth rate between April and June was 5.4 per cent lower than in the same quarter of 2018.

The 12,253 births represented the lowest total since records began in 1855.

They were outstripped by 13,652 deaths in the same period, up 0.2% on the previous year.

Births were down 9.3% on the average of the last five years, while deaths were up 0.9%.

Expressed as a rate, there were 9 births per 1000 of the population in the second quarter of 2019, compared to 9.6 in the same quarter a year earlier and 11.4 a decade ago.

The death rate was 10.1 per 1000, meaning Scotland’s population would be shrinking were it not for the effect of inward migration, something which could be affected by Brexit.

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NRS said there was no single cause for the fall in births, but factors included women delaying having children until later in life, which leads to smaller families.

The birth rate is also affected by economic uncertainty, with the start of the recent fall coinciding with the global financial crash a decade ago.

Paul Lowe, the Registrar General for Scotland, said: “In line with recent trends, the number of births and marriages in Scotland continues to fall, with the numbers registered in the second quarter of 2019 being the lowest since civil registration began in 1855.

“The number of second quarter deaths was virtually unchanged from last year.

“However, it represents an increase of 6.9% since 2009, when the number of deaths reached their lowest ever level for quarter two.”

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SNP External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “While Scotland’s total population is the highest it’s ever been (5.4m), we face a number of distinct challenges:

“Against a backdrop of yet another record fall in the birth rate, Scotland’s population is ageing with a shift in population from the west to east and declining population in rural areas.

“Given our declining birth rate all of Scotland’s population growth is predicted to come from migration.

The UK Government’s proposals to end free movement of people and limit migration presents a real risk.

“We need to ensure we can grow our working age population to support our economy and society now and in the future when we expect more people to live longer beyond retirement.”