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14/08/14 09:30

Impact of WW1 on Scotland

Registrar General’s Annual Review shows how Scotland was affected by War.

The Registrar General’s Annual Review, published today by National Records of Scotland, paints a picture of Scotland in statistics and considers the impact of World War One on the whole country and on one family.

The Registrar General’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends is a compendium of statistics which illustrates aspects of life in Scotland.

The 2013 Review also contains a chapter on the demographic impact of World War One on Scotland. It shows:

  • 1917 had 97,441 births, the fewest registered in Scotland since 1855, the first year of registration, as young men were away at war.
  • 1920 had 136,546 births the highest number in Scotland to date - a post war baby boom.
  • Similarly, marriages, drop to 31,419 in 1916 and 30,421 in 1917, but increased again in 1918, 1919 and 1920 to 34,529, 44,060 and 46,754 respectively.
  • There was a peak of 78,372 civilian deaths in 1918 during the outbreak of Spanish Flu. Military deaths which occurred outwith Scotland were not registered with NRS.

The Review has details on what happened to the Cowie family, from Turriff, Aberdeenshire, during and after the war. John and Elspet Cowie had seven children – six boys and one girl. John died fighting during WW1, as did three of his sons. One son died in childhood, another was gassed, spent time in hospital but survived, and the final son was excused military service until 1917 because three of his brothers had died in active service.

Cowie family historical image

Introducing the report Registrar General Tim Ellis said:

“This 159th edition of the Registrar General’s Annual Review continues the important task of bringing together relevant and up-to-date information on Scotland’s people and places.

“It will support the work of service providers and policy makers across the country, as well as providing a rich and accessible source of key statistics for all those interested in Scotland.

“One of the great advantages of an annual report that has been produced consistently for over 150 years is that we can make comparisons over long timescales.

“I am pleased that this edition of the Annual Review recognises the significance of 2014 as the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, by providing additional information from the extensive NRS archives and examining the effect of the War on Scotland.

“It’s clear from the information included in this report that the impact of the War was profound, widespread and long lasting. The story of the Cowie family, and the heavy losses they suffered during the War, illustrates the experience of many families in Scotland.”

Key points from the 2013 figures include:

  • Scotland’s population on 30 June 2013 was 5,327,700 – an increase of 14,100 (0.3) per cent) on the previous year and the highest ever. That increase was mainly due to 10,000 more people coming to Scotland than leaving, but there were also 900 more births than deaths.
  • There were 27,547 marriages in Scotland in 2013, including 6,200 where neither the bride nor groom lived in Scotland. Just over half of all marriages (51%) were civil ceremonies, and there were 530 civil partnerships – 217 male couples and 313 female couples.

An Infographics Supplement to the Annual Review is also published today.

Notes to editors

A picture of the Cowie family is available.

Most of the statistics have already been published during the course of the year.

Download the NRS Statistical News Release here:

Download the Registrar General’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends 159th Edition here:

Download the Infographics Supplement here:

Other statistics which NRS released today are the Vital Events Reference Tables (which can be found via and statistics on accidental deaths, alcohol-related deaths, clostridium difficile deaths, drug-related deaths, hypothermia deaths, MRSA deaths, probable suicides and age-standardised death rates (all of which are all available via ) and also new National Life Tables Scotland for 2011-2013 available here