West Dunbartonshire’s population decrease is the second highest across all local authorities in Scotland, it has been revealed.

New figures released by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) show that on June 30, 2019, the population of the area was 88,930 – a decrease of 0.2 per cent from 89,130 the previous year. However, over the same period, the population of Scotland increased by 0.5 per cent.

Statistics revealed that since 1998, the population locally has decreased by 6.3 per cent – the second highest decrease percentage out of the 32 Scottish council areas.

Meanwhile, over the same period, Scotland’s population rose by 7.6 per cent.

West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) said while there is no single reason for the population decrease, they will continue working with the Scottish Government to identify areas for re-population and growth.

Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie told the Reporter: “I am sure that there will be a number of different reasons for the population decrease that West Dunbartonshire has experienced.

“Many people leave our area in order to be closer to better paid, specialist jobs. I have long called for the need for well paid, highly skilled jobs to be created within West Dunbartonshire.

“I know that our community is full of very talented, trained individuals and they shouldn’t have to travel further afield to find work.

“There will also be many younger people who move out of the local authority for university then settle in their university town or elsewhere post-graduation.

“We are fortunate to live in an area of natural beauty, the gateway to Loch Lomond and the Highlands. It’s a great place to live and to bring up a family but we need to do more to make sure there are lots of economic opportunities locally to keep people in the area.”

There has only been one year since 1998 which saw a population increase.

In 2016, the number of people living in West Dunbartonshire went up by 270 to 89,860, from 89,590 the previous year.

The population then dropped to 89,610 in 2017.

Between 1998 and 2019, the 25 to 44 age group saw the largest percentage decrease (-23.3 per cent). Meanwhile, the 45 to 64 age group saw the largest percentage increase (+20.9 per cent).

Martin Docherty-Hughes, the area’s MP, said de-industrialised areas have for decades struggled with depopulation due to the “damaging legacy of the Thatcher years”.

He added: “I believe progress is being made, with investment in better housing, schools and infrastructure across West Dunbartonshire.

“However, efforts to improve the working-age population here and across Scotland will continue to be undermined by Brexit and the UK Government’s hostile approach to migration.

“The long-term impact of the pandemic is also unclear, but whatever happens we must continue working to bring new jobs and investment to ensure the vibrancy and sustainability of our communities.”