Rural populations saw a boost during the pandemic as Scots escaped the country's largest cities during lockdowns. 

Estimates from National Records of Scotland (NRS) show the populations of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen fell in the year to June 30, 2021.

Aberdeenshire and Argyll and Bute saw their population rise for the first time in years as a result, while Aberdeen and Dundee recorded the largest annual falls at a  0.7 per cent drop in both cities. 

Parts of these changes were attributed to students moving back home during the pandemic.

Scotland’s overall population is estimated to have increased 0.25% to 5,479,900.

READ MORE: Scots with children more prone to lockdown drinking

Current trends in births, deaths and migrations would see Scotland's population begin to fall by the end of the decade.

Esther Roughsedge, head of population and migration statistics at NRS, said: “As well as people moving long-term out of cities and into the surrounding areas, there may have been students who have moved back to their parents’ addresses temporarily during the pandemic.

“Another factor could be people who had previously moved updating their address with a GP to make sure they received their Covid-19 vaccination letters.

“Address information from GPs feeds into our migration estimates.

“Future reports will tell us if the areas which have gained population sustain those levels in the years ahead.”

However, the mid-year population estimates also showed that the number of people over the age of 65 in Scotland has increased by a third since 2000. 

Age Scotland has urged for more to be done as the country faces an ageing population across issues ranging from housing to health

The organisation's head of policy Adam Stachura said: “Scotland just isn’t planning effectively or quickly enough for a rapidly ageing population, despite these repeated indicators and well-established population trend.

"The aftermath of the pandemic combined with the current cost of living crisis has brought into sharp focus the challenges facing older people today, and in the future, really demonstrating that much more national action is needed.  

"The Scottish Government should develop a joined up strategy to support an ageing population as a matter of priority."

He added that access to high-quality health and social care was "key" to allow an older population to live independently. 

“Too many older people are already stuck living in unsuitable homes and unable to move or downsize if they wish," Mr Stachura. 

"Older people are also the group most impacted by fuel poverty in Scotland. We need to build more affordable, adaptable, energy efficient homes so that people can live independently in their communities.

"This will also help tackle and prevent growing levels of loneliness and isolation, but there must also be greater opportunities local to them to stay connected and socially engaged.  

“Today’s figures highlight that there is no time to lose in preparing to meet the needs of an ageing population and ensuring everyone can live well in later life.”