SCOTLAND'S population is on course to reach its highest level ever, with new figures showing that the country now has more than 5.22 million inhabitants - the largest number since 1977.
Rising immigration and the number of births exceeding deaths by the biggest margin for almost 20 years has contributed to the population soaring to 5,222,100 in mid-2010, a rise of 28,100 on the previous year.
Official projections now forecast that next year the population will surpass Scotland's all-time high of 5.24 million, which was recorded in 1974. In 2012, the population will reach 5.25 million, making the country more crowded than ever before.
Undoubtedly the rise in birth will be driven by immigration too. This is the pattern all across Europe, in which immigrants, particularly third-world immigrants, outbreed the indigenous population.
Note that only a small proportion of the immigrants to Scotland are from the rest of the UK. Most are from overseas, almost certainly primarily third worlders, although the report gives no precise indication of country of origin.
Yesterday's figures released by the National Records of Scotland were more proof that the country has turned around a population decline that was a source of anxiety at the beginning of this century. The population has increased by 167,300 since mid-2002, when it hit its lowest level since the Second World War.
According to the statistics, immigration exceeded emigration by 25,000 in the 12 months up to the middle of last year.
Analysis of the net migration gain of 25,000 showed that in the 12 months to mid-2010, there was a net gain of 3,300 from the rest of the UK added to a net gain of 21,500 from overseas.
The SNP were delighted by the news and demanded more powers over immigration so that Scotland could become even more immigrant-friendly:
The figures were welcomed by the SNP, which argued that the influx of more talent would help the economy.
An SNP spokesman said: "A growing population will help fuel our economic recovery.
The SNP believes Scotland should have responsibility for immigration policy, and should have an earned citizenship system similar to those in Canada or Australia, allowing us to attract highly skilled workers who can further boost prosperity."