As in recent years, there were more deaths than births. However, this natural decrease of about 4,000 was more than counterbalanced by an estimated migration gain of around 26,000, because more people came to Scotland than moved away. This is the highest net gain since 1952, when records were first kept in the current way. In addition, a reduction of around 1,000 was made to account for changes in the armed forces and prison populations.
* From mid-2003 to mid-2004 there were 3.4 per cent more births (53,576 compared with 51,792) and 1.3 per cent fewer deaths (57,588 compared with 58,321);
* Around 61,900 people came to Scotland from other countries in the UK and around 46,400 people moved in the opposite direction;
* Including asylum seekers, around 36,300 people came to Scotland from overseas and around 24,600 people moved overseas;
* Aberdeenshire was the council area with the largest proportionate increase (1.5 per cent), followed by City of Edinburgh and Clackmannanshire (1.2 per cent). Aberdeen City (-1.5 per cent), Dundee City (-0.9 per cent) and Inverclyde (-0.7 per cent) had the largest decreases;
* Highland was the Health Board area with the largest increase (1.1 per cent) followed by Lothian and Orkney with 1.0 per cent. The only health board with a decrease was Argyll and Clyde (-0.3 per cent).
Comparable figures for England and Wales will be published by the Office for National Statistics in August 2005.
Migration is derived from three key sources of data. The National Health Service Central Register for moves between health board areas within the UK, with migration at council area level within Scotland estimated using anonymised data from the Community Health Index.
The source of the information about overseas migration is the International Passenger Survey. It is based on a small sample for Scotland, and hence there is a higher risk of error than with the remainder of the population estimates.
A National Statistics Quality Review of International Migration Statistics was carried out by the Office for National Statistics, and a report was published which recommended ways of improving the quality and accuracy of international migration. An implementation plan has been developed by ONS but it will be some time before improved data sources are available.
The 2001 census results published in September 2002 showed that previous population estimates had exaggerated the population of Scotland by some 50,000 - largely because of errors in estimates of migration in the 1980s and 1990s. To ensure that future estimates do not continue to overestimate the population, a component for unmeasured migration has been included in the latest figures - a reduction of 1,500 people. More information on these adjustments can be found on the GROS website.
The next set of projections of Scotland's future population, based on the 2004 mid-year estimates, will be published in October 2005, followed by the sub-national projections for administrative areas in December.