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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 June, 2004, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Scottish birth figures on the up
Young mothers with pushchairs
Scotland's population is pushing forward again
Births in Scotland have risen, bucking the recent trend, according to new official figures.

The number of births in the first three months of this year was 5% higher than a year ago, while deaths fell by 2%.

Registrar General Duncan MacNiven said the baby boom helped delay Scotland's population falling below five million.

"Since the middle of 2002, all but one quarter has seen more births than the same period in the previous year," he added.

"Last quarter, too, the number of deaths was 2.4% lower than in 2003. These changes help to defer the time when Scotland's population falls below five million.

"It is encouraging to learn that the number of births is 5.4% higher than the first quarter last year."

Immigration policy

Scotland has been facing the fastest falling population anywhere in Europe and is expected to be below five million by 2009.

Earlier this year, a new study called for the Scottish Parliament to be given control over immigration policy in order to halt the population crisis.

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

It believes the 8,000 annual immigration target suggested by ministers should be revised to 50,000.

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