The population of Scotland has risen to 5,436,600 – the highest figure on record – with the increase driven by migration, according to the new census.

New data released by National Records of Scotland (NRS) showed the population has grown by 2.7% since the last census in 2011, and without migration it would have shrunk.

Angus Robertson, the Scottish Government's Constitution Secretary, said the figure was a "historic moment".

But he added that the data showed the ongoing need for immigration, as there  continue to be fewer births than deaths registered while the fastest growing segment of society is those aged over-65. 

The population of Scotland was estimated to be 5,436,600 on Census Day on March 20 2022, but it has grown more slowly than other parts of the UK.

Without migration the population of Scotland would have decreased by around 49,800 since 2011, records showed.

Scotland has an ageing population, with more than one million over-65s, and a trend towards smaller households, according to the £140 million survey, which was extended by a month due to a low response.

Only 832,300 people are under the age of 15 – compared to 1971, when there were double the number of under-15s, compared to over-65s.

The Herald:

In 2011 the two demographics were broadly the same size, but since then the number of people aged 65 plus increased by 22.5%.

The population increased by 6.3% in England and Wales, and by 5.1% in Northern Ireland between 2011 and 2021.

There has been a census in Scotland every 10 years since 1801, except 1941, but the 2021 census was delayed due to the pandemic.

Latest statistics showed the population grew by 141,200 (2.7%) since 2011, a slower rate of growth than between 2001 and 2011, when the figure rose by 233,400 (4.6%).

READ MORE: SNP minister Angus Robertson admits delayed census led to lower response rate

There were 2,509,300 households with at least one usual resident, an increase of 5.8% since 2011, or 136,500 people.

The increase in the number of households (5.8%) is higher than the increase in the population (2.7%), which was said to reflect the ageing population.

The Scottish Government pledged to address depopulation and social isolation after the findings.

Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Angus Robertson said the low birth-rate showed the consequences of Brexit.

Across Scotland, the population increased in 17 council areas between 2011 and 2022 and most of the Central Belt saw increases especially around Edinburgh, driven by migration.

Next year results will be published on ethnicity, religion, the labour market, education and housing.

For the first time, it will include data on veterans, sexual orientation and trans status or history.

NRS chief executive Janet Egdell said: “This is an exciting milestone for Scotland’s Census and the results paint a fascinating picture of how Scotland and our communities are changing.

“Census data is vital for planning health services, education and transport and the information published through our results will help local and central government, businesses and charities to shape Scotland for years to come.”

The Herald: Angus Robertson 

Angus Robertson said: “Today’s publication represents a historic moment with the largest population ever recorded by Scotland’s Census of 5.4 million.

"It also confirms this growth has been driven by inward migration, demonstrating that Scotland is an attractive place to come to live and work.

"However we know Scotland faces an ongoing population challenge with fewer births than deaths registered in Scotland since 2011, which reinforces just how damaging Brexit continues to be for Scotland with the loss of freedom of movement."

The census was due to take place in May 2021, but was put on hold for 12 months due to the pandemic.

But low response rates forced ministers to fork out an additional £6m to twice extend the deadline, but the study still failed to reach the 94% target. Instead 89.2% of Scots responded, with the total costs reaching £144.6m.

READ MORE: SNP minister boasts over 'good level' of census response

Mr Robertson added: “The census also shows that, in line with many other countries, our population is aging. Understanding these changes in the population will allow local authorities and the government to adapt vital public services to better meet the needs of those living and working in Scotland – including our large, established migrant community, whose contribution we greatly welcome.

"As outlined in the Programme for Government, we will publish an Addressing Depopulation Action Plan which will set out the first phase of our response to population decline occurring in some of Scotland’s communities.

“We will also introduce a Talent Attraction and Migration Service to support more people to live and work here. We have also called on the UK Government to devolve immigration powers to the Scottish Parliament and work with us to deliver our proposal for a Rural Visa Pilot to enable rural and island communities to attract migrants in line with local needs."