SCOTLAND’S population reached its highest-ever level at more than 5.3 million last year boosted by an upturn in 16 to 34-year-olds from other parts of the UK moving to the country.

A report released by the Scottish Government shows the number of people living north of the Border last year soared to 5.3 million, a rise of 19,900 (0.4 per cent) on the year before.

According to the National Records of Scotland (NRS), the rise was partly caused by nearly 50,000 people migrating from the rest of the UK, 9600 more than those who went the other way. The report said the majority of people moving to the country were aged between 16 and 34.

The figure is an increase of nearly 2000 on 2012/2013, which only saw an in-migration increase of 7900.

The domestic migration figure is also 1000 higher than the net rise in people coming to Scotland from the rest of the world, which increased by 8000.

Professor Robert Wright, of the Department of Economics at Strathclyde University, said while the migration increase was probably due to young people coming to Scotland to study or to look for jobs, it was also probably due to people moving here because of lower living costs.

He added that while it was positive development Scotland’s “population momentum” was following a downward trend.

“This is a one year increase. It’s not very many people and the long term population momentum in Scotland is downwards as fertility decreases,” he said.

“Population momentum is like a snowball it builds up over a long time and it’s difficult to push off its path.

“The long term is low growth or no growth. It’s good that there’s been an increase, but it’s only one year. Let’s see what happens next year.”

Migrants to Scotland tended to be younger than the general population, the figures revealed. They showed that more than two thirds of migrants from overseas and nearly half of migrants from the rest of the UK were aged 16 to 34 years. In the population as a whole, only a quarter were in this age group.

The figures also showed that only seven per cent of people coming to Scotland from the rest of the UK and one per cent of people entering from overseas were over 65. Scotland had a net gain of UK migrants in every age group and a net loss of international migrants for the majority of migrants aged over 45.

The median age of the population was 41, with younger people more often living in cities.

Glasgow was the youngest city with a median age of 35, while Edinburgh and Aberdeen’s median age was 26.

On a local level, Midlothian had the largest percentage population increase, rising by 1.8 per cent on mid-2013, followed by Aberdeenshire and Edinburgh, which increased by 1.1 per cent, and East Renfrewshire, up by one per cent.

But despite the overall boost in the country, the population of Inverclyde fell by 0.6 per cent along with the Western Isles, down 0.5 per cent, and Argyll & Bute, which dropped by 0.4 per cent.

The average age of people living in cities, who average 35 to 36, was also lower than those living in rural areas, who come in at 47.

The figures also show that last year there was an average of 69 people living per square metre across the country, bringing the population in at 5,347,600.