Newly-published projections from The Improvement Service in collaboration with the National Records of Scotland estimate the number of people living in Nithsdale and Annandale will fall from 95,024 this year to 92,802 by the end of the decade – a loss of 2222 residents.
The dip is in line with projections for all of Dumfries and Galloway, which is set to see its population drop by over 4500 from 148,140 to 143,543. Scotland’s population, however, is expected to rise by 180,000 to 5.58 million.
Lochar and Mid and Upper Nithsdale are the only wards projected to rise in population, with Nith set to see the most dramatic fall of 1639.
The statistics also forecast a slight rise in average life expectancy across Nithsdale and Annandale from 79.9 to 81- and from 80 to 81.1 across the whole region.
Commenting on the projections, Labour MSP for South Scotland Colin Smyth said: “A projected population drop of this level in Dumfries and Galloway is a real concern but comes as no surprise. The lack of high skilled, well paid jobs in our region mean too many of our young people are forced to leave the area.
“That’s why when the legislation was passing through the Scottish Parliament to establish the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency I successfully amended the bill to ensure that increasing the number of residents of working age in the area should be a key aim of the new agency.
“But it isn’t just SOSE’s job – Government at UK, Scottish and local level and all their agencies need to have a relentless focus on reversing the depopulation of rural areas such as ours. It’s great that people love to move to our area to retire but it also needs to be a region where people can come to work and study at the highest level and sadly we are still a long way away from being that region.
“Achieving that is more important than ever as the economic effects of Covid-19 pandemic has hit our area particularly hard and we face massive economic uncertainty in the coming weeks and months. We need local solutions to the local problems facing our economy and this in turn would help stop the flow of people out of the region.”
Meanwhile, SNP MSP for South Scotland Emma Harper called the figures “interesting,” adding: “There are many determinants to increasing population size, particularly in rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway and these projections are based mostly on trends over the last few years.
“They also don’t take account of recent and future changes occurring as a result of the impact of Covid-19 which we all realise could play a significant role on decisions people make in the future.
“There are increasing opportunities for people of all ages in the South of Scotland with the introduction and investment of the new agency, South of Scotland Enterprise, which is working closely with Dumfries and Galloway Council and across our region’s strongest sectors, to capitalise upon existing opportunities to create jobs and encouraging people to live, work and invest in our region.”