Factfile - Population
The most recent mid-year population estimates (2013) for the Outer Hebrides gives a population of 27,400. This shows a decrease of -0.6% (-160 persons) from mid 2012 to mid 2013. This decrease can be attributed to the negative ‘natural change’ (-149) and negative ‘net civilian migration’ (-19). Deaths (386) continued to exceed births (237) over the period. The median age in the islands was estimated to be 46 years (Scottish average 41 yrs) in June 2013.
Over the last ten years (between 2003 and 2013) in the Outer Hebrides there has been a 3.7% increase in population. Over the same period, Shetland saw an increase of 5.6%, Orkney an increase of 10.4%, while Scotland overall saw an increase of 5.1%. Figure 1 below plots the estimated population of the Outer Hebrides over the last ten years (2003-2013).
Figure 1: Estimated Population in Outer Hebrides 2003-2013
In 2013, the ‘median age in the Outer Hebrides was estimated to be 45 years for males and 47 years for females with the following age group breakdowns by sex: Males (17% under 16 years; 62% of working age; 21% of pensionable age); Females (16% under 16 years; 54% of working age; and 30% of pensionable age).
The estimated decrease in the population of the Outer Hebrides from 2012-2011 can be attributed to negative natural change (more deaths (386) than births (237) and positive net migration (more in-migration than out-migration) which was estimated to be -19. The graph below illustrates the net migration and natural change estimated for the population between June 2003 and June 2013.
Figure 2: Natural Change and Net Migration in the Outer Hebrides 2003 to 2013
Following the 2011 Census, National Records of Scotland (NRS) produced revised population estimates for 2002 to 2010. Fig 2 above illustrates the natural change and net migration in the Outer Hebrides from 2003 to 2013.
Natural change has been consistently over -100 for most years reaching its highest in 2003 at -156. However, net migration has been positive in every year apart from 2013 highlighting how important it is to have positive net migration to counteract the negative natural change. Over the period 2003 to 2013 the total net migration for the Outer Hebrides has been 1,082.
On census night in 2001 the resident population of the Outer Hebrides was 26,502; in comparison this figure was 29,600 on census night in 1991. Thus over the period 1991 to 2001 the Outer Hebrides experienced a decline in population of -10% (the highest percentage decline of any Local Authority area in Scotland over the period). Looking back further over last century (1901-2001), the population of the Outer Hebrides has declined by 43% (46,000 in 1901). However, from 2001 to 2011 the Outer Hebrides experienced a 4.5% increase in population, as illustrated in figure 3.
Figure 3: Outer Hebrides Population recorded by the Census (1901-2011)
Demographically, the population of the Outer Hebrides is ageing. As figure 4 illustrates, the greatest decline by age group has occurred in the 30-44 year category (from representing 20.5% of the population in 2003 to 17.3% in 2013). The greatest increase by age group has occurred in the 45-64 category (from representing 27.8% of the population in 2003 to 29.9% in 2013).
Figure 4: Age structure of the Outer Hebrides, 2003 and 2013
The continuing trend is for young adults to leave the islands for further education or employment purposes.
The situation in the Outer Hebrides is however more marked than elsewhere in Scotland. The Outer Hebrides population also has a higher percentage of individuals in the older age groups and correspondingly less in the younger age groups. In 2013 the average age of residents in the Outer Hebrides was five years older than in Scotland (46 to 41 years).
The only large town in the Outer Hebrides is Stornoway (Steòrnabhagh) with approximately 7,500 people. Approximately 29% of the total population of the Outer Hebrides, around 8,000 people, live within the Greater Stornoway area encompassing Laxdale (Lacasdal), Sandwick (Sanndabhaig) and Newmarket. The remaining population is scattered throughout over 280 townships. Stornoway is the only settlement, which can really be described as having any 'urban' characteristics.