THE Orkney Islands and Western Isles have seen a population boost as Scots choose to swap life in the city for smaller rural communities, according to the latest statistics. 

National Records of Scotland (NRS) has delved deeper into figures which highlighted how Scotland’s city population had fallen during the pandemic. 

Estimates up to July 30, 2021 revealed a years-long trend had been reversed as some rural communities saw their population increase amid a decline in city living. 

The NRS has now assessed almost 7000 small geographical areas, or data zones, across Scotland to uncover more detail about the population change. 

Reports from the NRS also predict that Scotland's population will be the only one in the UK to decline by 2045. 

READ MORE: Scotland will be only UK nation to see population decline by 2045, NRS finds

Data zones are a set of small areas covering the whole of Scotland and are used to understand the population of local communities. 

The average data zone population in Scotland was 786 people in mid-2021. 

The analysis showed the number of people living in large urban areas had dropped by 5600 or 0.3% in mid-2021. 

Meanwhile, the populations of rural areas, small towns and other urban areas had either increased or fallen more slowly than the previous year. 

Accessible and remote areas had the largest increases in particular – by 13,200 (2%) and 4700 (1.6%) respectively. 

The Orkney Islands experienced the highest level of population growth, with 66% of its data zones increasing, followed by Na h-Eileanan Siar (61%) and Shetland (60%).  

In contrast, 19 of the 32 local authority areas in Scotland experienced population decrease in more than half of their data zones. 

Three areas in the west of Scotland saw the largest proportion of data zones decrease from mid-2020 to July 2021. 

They are West Dunbartonshire, with 69% of data zones decreasing in population, followed by Renfrewshire (64%) and Inverclyde (62%).

READ MORE: Scotland in the UK set for slow GDP growth and population decline, new figures show

However, most people still live in large urban areas, (38%), and other urban areas (34%), the data shows.

Esther Roughsedge, a statistician at NRS, said: “The population of small geographical areas changes over time for many reasons, including birth and deaths as well as migration inwards and outwards.

“Every council area has pockets of population growth and decline.

“In the latest year, the largest proportions of data zone increasing in population were mainly in rural and island council areas.

“This is quite different to the patterns we saw the previous year.”