2005-07-30

Stats: A Tale of Two Scotlands

Just 150 years ago the average Scot had a one-in-seven chance of dying before his or her first birthday, and was likely to be married by 24 and dead by 40. Today a typical Scot will have only a one-in-100 chance of dying during their first year of life, will 'tie the knot' by the age of 32, and will live to be 74. The huge differences are some of the demographic trends to emerge from the publication yesterday of 'The Registrar General's' '150th Annual Report', which 'paints a picture' of two very different Scotlands... Comparing life in Scotland today with 150 years ago, 'The Registrar General' Mr.Duncan Macniven, said the country had changed beyond recognition.
'Scotland today is a very different place from Scotland in the mid-1850s,' he said. ' 'The total population, in the 1851 census, was 2.89 million compared with 5.08 million in 2004. 'More than 93_000 babies were born in 1855, compared to only 54_000 in 2004 but of course many more would not have lived beyond their first birthday then. 'Since 1855, the death rate has fallen from 24 people/1000 population to 11 people/1000 population in 2004. This was due, in part, to the ending of the epidemics of smallpox, whooping cough and measles, which were of great concern to "The Registrar General" in 1855. The one consistency between the two eras is the fact that "Smith" remains such a common surname.'
Research also showed that average Scots today have two rooms to live in, while 150 years ago they had a one-in-three chance of having to share one room with the entire family. But Professor Mr.Geoffrey Barrow, a former lecturer of 'Scottish History' at 'Edinburgh University', said that many Victorians in Scotland in the mid-19th century would have felt they were living through an age of prosperity.
'If you spoke to a Scot in the 1850s they would have felt that they were quite well off compared to the hardships of Georgian times, when death rates were even higher,' he said. 'The general perception is that "The Industrial Revolution" brought poverty to the United Kingdom but, in fact, it provided quite a lot of prosperity. 'Most people 150 years ago would probably have felt they were living through an age of great improvement, especially with the arrival of such things as the railways. 'Life was certainly tough for Victorian Scots but the perception at the time would have been that they were living in a progressive society.'
Making comparisons with more modern times, the 2004 report found the number of deaths in Scotland had fallen to its lowest level since records began. Scotland's population also rose last year 2004 by 21_000 to 5_078_400.
'Today the "big killers" are "cancer" and "heart disease", and I think the decline we are seeing in death rates for 2004 reflects scientific breakthroughs,' 'The Registrar General' said. '"Lung cancer" is also killing fewer men than it was in the 1980s, which is a sign that many are hopefully giving up "smoking". 'The legislation from "The Scottish Executive" to ban "smoking" in bars and restaurants may also help. "Lung cancer" is still a "big killer" for women, though.'
The number of marriages has also reached its highest level since 1983. A factor in this that 2004 was the second year running in which civil marriages could take place in 'approved places' outside registration offices, which now account for 38 per cent of civil marriages. Last year 2004, 'Gretna Green' -- famed for its tradition of the local blacksmith conducting the ceremony 'over the anvil' -- accounted for more than one in six of the marriages made in Scotland. In 1855, there were only 19_680 marriages compared to 32_154 in 2004. About 5_000 of the 32_154 weddings which took place in Scotland last year were staged at this Dumfries & Galloway venue, according to official figures. But 'The Registrar General' claimed couples were choosing to 'get hitched' at 'Gretna' for practical more than romantic reasons. He said many couples choosing 'Gretna Green' to marry had come from England & Wales.
'It may be partly because in Scotland there's no residence qualification,' he said. 'You don't have to be resident in the place when you give your notice to get married so it's easier if you want a low-key, fairly "impromptu" wedding.'
The report did throw up some similarities, with 'Smith' continually emerging as one of the most popular surname in Scotland for the last 150 years. 'John' and 'Mary' were the most popular first names in 1855, while 'Lewis' and 'Emma' topped the polls today. The number of deaths in 2004 exceeded the number of births by more than 2_000. But the gap narrowed due to a 1_525 increase in births compared to 2003. Deaths were down by 2_285 -- the lowest annual total since civil registration started in 1855. 'The Registrar General' put the increase in the population down to immigration.
'In the year to mid-2004, 26_000 more people moved to Scotland, from within the UK and from across the world, than moved away,' he said. 'It's not grey migration either; Scotland is attracting a lot of young people to come and study here or live as professionals. 'A lot of these people are coming from England. The figures suggest Scotland is clearly seen as a "good place" to study and work.'
Fertility rates in Scotland have remained lower and death rates higher than the rest of the United Kingdom. Scotland's ageing population has also continued to increase over the last ten years, with the number of children under the age of 15 decreasing by nine per cent and the number of people aged 75 and over going up by 16 per cent. 'The Registrar General' said that trend was 'likely to continue' and would contribute to concerns over whether enough of the elderly population had sufficient pensions. Mr.Jim Mather, 'The Scottish National Party' shadow 'Enterprise and Economy' minister, said that while the improvements were to be welcomed, much remained to be done to address Scotland's problems.
'While the 21_000 increase in the population is a "good sign", Scotland is not "off the hook" from her population problems. 'The clock is still ticking, and if the numbers of young and working-age people continue to decline we will have a worsening demographic situation that Scotland cannot afford. 'The estimated increases of 63 per cent in the over-75s and 37 per cent in the over-60s presents some serious issues surrounding our ageing population that we must immediately "tackle head on". 'We should be taking real and serious steps to increase our working-age population, and to make sure that happens across Scotland, not just in our cities.'
Current projections suggest that Scotland's population will fall below five million in 2017. Over the past 140 years Scotland's share of the British population has declined from 12.5 per cent in 1861 to 8.6 per cent in 2001. Wedding Past & Present Until 2002, civil marriages could only be held in registration offices. 'The Marriage (Scotland) Act 2002' allowed registrars to conduct ceremonies in other 'approved places', which covers 600 venues, including castles and hotels. In 2004 there were 5_974 civil marriages -- which account for 19 per cent of all marriages -- meaning that one in five marriages that took place last year 2004 would not have been permitted before the law change. There has been a corresponding decline in the number of religious marriages of 2_129 between 2002 and 2004. More Women Dying From Lung Cancer The gap is narrowing between the sexes when it comes to deaths from lung cancer. Since 1980 the number of men dying of lung cancer has decreased from 119/100_000 population to 88/100_000 population last year 2004. For women, 41 deaths/100_000 population were from lung cancer in 1980 but last year this figure rose to 67. Anti-smoking body 'ASH Scotland' said the trend could be blamed on 'smoking', with teenage girls taking up the habit to enter the 'adult' world. Men were giving up in an effort to embrace a sporty lifestyle. '150 years on... Scots have never been so well', Edward Black, The Scotsman, 2005-07-30, Sa

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