Population of Scotland 2023

The latest official estimate shows that the population of Scotland is 5,463,300.

Scotland is the second largest of the four countries which make up the United Kingdom. It makes up 8.015% of the total UK population and has only about a tenth of the population of England.

If Scotland were an independent country it would be the 28 largest country by population in Europe and the 20th largest country in the European Union. It is roughly comparable in population size to Finland, Slovakia, Denmark and Norway.

Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland with a population of 606,340, followed by Edinburgh with a population of 464,990.

Scotland Population Growth

When the kingdom of Scotland joined with the kingdom of England in 1707 to form the United Kingdom the population of Scotland was about 1 million people.

From then until the 1970s Scotland’s population increased every decade. The country’s population declined stayed relatively static in the is 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, falling from a high of 5,229,000 in 1971 to a low of 5,062,000 in 2001.

Economic prosperity and increased confidence has seen Scotland’s population returned to growth again this 21st-century. Between 2001 2011 Scotland’s population grew by 5% to reach 5,295,000 at the time of the 2011 census.

The table below records the population of Scotland at the time of the census from 1801 onwards. No census was carried out in 1941 because of the Second World War, so data has been added from the 1939 National Register of the Civilian Population.

Year Population
1801 1,608,420
1811 1,805,864
1821 2,091,521
1831 2,364,386
1841 2,620,184
1851 2,888,742
1861 3,062,294
1871 3,360,081
1881 3,735,578
1891 4,025,647
1901 4,472,103
1911 4,760,904
1921 4,882,407
1931 4,842,989
1939 5,006,700
1951 5,095,969
1961 5,179,000
1971 5,229,000
1981 5,035,000
1991 5,083,000
2001 5,062,000
2011 5,295,000

Largest cities in Scotland

Glasgow (population: 606,300) is the largest city in Scotland. Edinburgh (population: 464,990), which is the capital city of Scotland, is only the second largest city. Data is from 2015.

There are two other cities with a population of more than 100,000. They are Aberdeen (population 196,670) and Dundee (147,710). Data from 2012.

The table below lists the 10 largest cities and towns in Scotland. Data is drawn from the Mid-2012 Population Estimates for Settlements and Localities in Scotland, which was published by National Records of Scotland in 2014.

City name Population City/Town
Glasgow 599,650 City
Edinburgh 464,990 City
Aberdeen 196,670 City
Dundee 147,710 City
Paisley 77,220 Town
East Kilbride 74,740 Town
Livingston 56,570 Town
Hamilton 53,200 Town
Cumbernauld 51,610 Town
Dunfermline 50,380 Town

The greater Glasgow urban area, which includes towns such as Paisley, Hamilton, Airdrie and Motherwell, has a population of 1.2 million people.

The wider urban area around Edinburgh, known as the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region, is slightly larger with a population of 1.3 million people.

Scotland Ethnicity

White is the largest single ethnic group in Scotland, comprising 96.02% of the population. Further to this 83.95% of people reported that they were White: Scottish. A further 7.88% reported that they were White: Other British.

Other major ethnic groups reported in the 2011 census were Asian (2.66%), African (0.56%), Mixed (0.37%), Other (0.27%) and Caribbean or Black (0.12%).

The chart below shows all groups with more than 0.5% of population


Scotland is less ethnically diverse than the UK as a whole. Across the entire United Kingdom 13% of people reported in the 2011 census but they were not White. In Scotland only 4% of people reported that they were not White.

National Identity in Scotland

Unsurprisingly for a country which recently held a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom and which, in the light of the UK decision to leave the European Union, is considering a second independence referendum, almost two thirds of people report that their main national identity is Scottish.

Scottish only62%
Scottish and British18%
British only8%

In the latest census 62% of people said their identity was Scottish only. A further 18% reported that their identity was Scottish and British, while 8% reported that their identity was British only.


Christianity is the largest religion in Scotland.

No religion36.7%
Religion not stated

Just over half (53.8%) of respondents in the 2011 census reported that they were Christian. This represents a decline of 12% since 2001 and matches the pattern seen across the rest of the UK.

The largest Christian denomination in Scotland is Church of Scotland, with 32.4% of the population. This is followed by Roman Catholic (15.9%) and other Christian (5.5%).

The number of people who reported that they have no religion increased from 27.6% in 2001 to 36.7% in 2011. A further 7.0% did not state their religion in their census return.

The second largest religion in Scotland after Christianity is Islam, which is followed by 1.4% of people in Scotland. No other religion is followed by more than 0.3% of people.


English is the most commonly spoken language in Scotland. 93% of people reported that English was the language they spoke at home, followed by 1% who spoke Polish at home, and 0.2% who used British sign language at home.

People were asked in the 2011 census whether they could speak Scots or Gaelic. In total 38% of people reported that they could speak, read, write or understand Scots, and 1.1% of people reported that they could speak Gaelic. The census does not record respondents’ level of fluency.


Technically English is not an official language in either the United Kingdom, England or Scotland. However Scots and Scottish Gaelic are both recognised as regional languages in Scotland. British sign language is also officially recognised.

Further reading

More information about Scotland demographics can be found at the Scotland Census website and at National Records Scotland.

You can also visit our detailed article about the population of the United Kingdom for information about the UK as a whole and how Scotland compares to other parts of the UK.