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Last Updated: Friday, 30 April, 2004, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
Population dip curbed by migrants
Buchanan Street Glasgow
Scotland's population rose slightly in 2003
Migrants are helping to reverse Scotland's population slide, official figures have revealed.

Statistics show 5,057,400 were living in the country at the end of June 2003 - up 2,600.

Research indicates 6,500 more people died than were born which carries on the trend of recent years.

It was out-matched, though, by an estimated gain of 9,100 because more people migrated than moved away, said the Registrar General.

People coming to Scotland from overseas exceeded emigrants by 700, compared with a loss of 9,700 the previous year.

Figures exaggerated

About 2,400 fewer people left Scotland to go to the rest of the UK in 2002-03, while the numbers moving in the opposite direction changed little.

The 2001 Census disclosed previous population estimates had exaggerated the population of Scotland by some 50,000.

It was caused mainly by mistakes in estimates of migration in the 1980s and 1990s.

Migrants are people who move from one country to another. These statistics include those who were born and lived in Scotland, moved away and then returned.

A Scottish Executive spokesperson said: "The migration figures are encouraging though not fully dependable for the reasons explained by the Registrar General.

"This is evidence of the attractiveness of Scotland as a place to live and work."

First Minister Jack McConnell said: "Scotland is the best small country in the world. We aim to sustain and build on recent interest through our Fresh Talent policies."

Despite the population rise recorded in 2003, Scotland still faces the fastest falling population anywhere in Europe.

By 2009 it is expected that the country's population will be below five million.

The population increase, though welcome, is also very small.
Duncan Macniven
Registrar General

On Thursday, a report called for the Scottish Parliament to be given control over immigration policy in order to halt the country's population crisis.

The Scottish Economic Policy Network said plans to increase the number of people settling in Scotland do not go far enough.

First Minister Jack McConnell said earlier this year that the country's falling population was the "single biggest challenge facing Scotland in the 21st century".

Scottish Economic Policy Network expert, Professor Robert Wright said a target immigration figure for Scotland of 50,000 per year would help the country.

CBI Scotland's Allan Hogarth has warned, though, the situation could harm the economy.

He said: "It's a twin-track problem - one, that it could adversely affect economic growth which is what we all want to see improve, plus it puts greater pressure on those currently working in public services."

'Welcome, but small'

The latest figures were drawn up by Registrar General for Scotland, Duncan Macniven.

He said: "I cannot say that this is a change in the trend for Scotland's population, partly because it is hard to measure the number of people who emigrate from the UK. "

Mr Macniven added: "The population increase, though welcome, is also very small."

Commenting on news that Scotland's population has risen in the last year, Scottish Conservative enterprise spokesman, Murdo Fraser MSP, said: "The Scottish Executive should not be getting too carried away about this figure.

"It is a small rise and evidence still suggests that Scotland's population will fall below 5 million in 2009.

"The executive cannot get complacent, and so it must address the problem of our falling population."

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