The population in rural areas has risen, while the number of people in Scotland’s largest cities fell during the pandemic, new estimates from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) show.
The populations of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee all fell during last year up to June 30, 2021.
The most common moves within Scotland were from the largest cities to their neighbouring council areas.
The populations of Midlothian and East Lothian saw the largest increase, of 1.6% each.
Rural areas such as Aberdeenshire and Argyll and Bute also saw their populations rise for the first time in years.
Aberdeen and Dundee recorded the largest annual falls in their populations at 0.7% each.
Esther Roughsedge, head of population and migration statistics at NRS, said that there are a number of reasons for the changing population.
She said: “As well as people moving long-term out of cities and into the surrounding areas, there may have been students who have moved back to their parents’ addresses temporarily during the pandemic.
“Another factor could be people who had previously moved updating their address with a GP to make sure they received their Covid-19 vaccination letters.
“Address information from GPs feeds into our migration estimates.
“Future reports will tell us if the areas which have gained population sustain those levels in the years ahead.”
As average house prices increase across the country, another reason for rural populations increasing may be that buyers have found themselves priced out of Scotland’s biggest cities.
The latest House Price Index (HPI) report found homes in some areas rose in value by almost 35% and fell in just one part of Scotland during the same time period.
Edinburgh continued to dominate as the most expensive part of the country to live – up 11.6%
Aberdeen and Dundee experienced rises of around 6% while in Glasgow it was just over 9%.
Scotland’s overall population is also estimated to have increased 0.25% to 5,479,900.
Ms Roughsedge added: “We currently continue to see Scotland’s population rise, albeit more slowly than before the pandemic.
“However, our most recent projections looking ahead to 2045, published in January, show that if current trends in births, deaths and migration continue, Scotland’s population will start to fall by the end of this decade.”