The latest estimate for the population of Scotland was released in May 2012 by National Statistics Scotland. They reported that, in mid-2011, Scotland's population was 5,254,800.
This represents an increase of almost 200,000 in the decade since the 2001 census, which recorded 5,062,011 people living in Scotland in mid 2001. It's worth noting, though, that the population count might need to be adjusted once the official results of the 2011 census are released later this year.
Following a period of decline in the latter half of the 20th century, Scotland's population is once again increasing steadily, fueled mainly by immigration from England and further afield, but also supported by an upswing in the domestic birth rate.
Ethnicity, Religion and Language in Scotland
Scotland is a relatively homogenous nation, although becoming increasingly more ethnically diverse. The latest data, from the 2001 census, revealed that 98.19% of people living in Scotland were white, mostly (88.09%) white Scottish. South Asian was the next largest non-white ethnic group recorded, at 1.09% of the population, followed by Chinese (0.32%), Mixed (0.25%) and Black (0.16%).
As noted at the top of this article, much of Scotland's current population growth is fueled by immigration, particularly from other European Union countries, so expect to see this data change a bit once the 2011 census results are revealed.
When it comes to languages, Scotland is blessed with three official languages – English, Scots and Scottish Gaelic. Almost everyone in Scotland is thought to be fluent in English, around 30% are estimated to be able to speak Scots and around 1% of the population are believed to be able to speak Scottish Gaelic. The number of Scottish Gaelic speakers is thought to be dropping fairly rapidly, while the number of Scots speakers is thought to be increasing with support from the Scottish Government. For the first time in 2011, respondents in Scotland were asked if they speak Scots, so more accurate data is expected to be released on the number of Scots speakers soon.
The most popular religion in Scotland is Christianity. In the 2001 census, 42.4% of people reported that they were Church of Scotland, 15.9% Roman Catholic and a further 6.8% were members of another Christian denomination. The next largest grouping (27.5%) reported that they had no religion, followed by 5.5% who did not answer the question on religious beliefs. 0.8% of people in Scotland were Muslim, but no other religion is followed by more than 0.1% of the people in Scotland.
Largest cities in Scotland
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland – in mid-2011 Glasgow's population was 598,830. As well as being Scotland's most populous city, it is the third most populous city in the UK, behind London and Birmingham, and the 40th largest city in the European Union. The Greater Glasgow area (a continuously populated urban area with Glasgow City at its heart) was home to 1,199,629 people at the time of the 2001 census, making it the fifth largest urban area in the UK.
Edinburgh, Scotland's capital city, comes in second with a 2011 population of 495,360. It is the 7th most populous city in the UK, and the 59th most populous city in the EU. Both cities are growing at a reasonable rate, so it's likely that we'll see the number of people in Glasgow top 600,000 and the number of people in Edinburgh top 500,000 in the next few years.
The two other major cities in Scotland are Aberdeen (pop 220,420) and Dundee (pop 145,570).
It's no coincidence that all of Scotland's largest towns and cities – and, indeed, more than two thirds of its total population – are concentrated in a belt of land across the South and the East Coast of Scotland. This area, often known as the Scottish Lowlands, is the most geographically hospitable part of Scotland. The Scottish Highlands in the North and West of the country are, by contrast, far less densely populated.
(Note, unless otherwise specified, all city data comes from the National Statistics Scotland report linked to at the top of this article.)
No accurate data on people of Scottish ethnicity around the world exists but as well as Scottish people living in Scotland, there are thought to be around 2 million people of Scottish descent living in the rest of the United Kingdom.
Millions of Scots have over the years emigrated to other parts of the world – mostly, but not always, to other parts of the British Empire. The United States is home to the largest population claiming Scottish descent – approximately 22 million – followed by Australia (5 million) and Canada (4.5 million). Intriguingly, Brazil is also home to a major Scottish population – around 1 million according to the CIA Factbook – as are a number of European countries, such as the Netherlands (750,000) and Poland (500,000).