National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Vital Events Reference Tables 2004

Vital Events Reference Tables 2004

Notes and Definitions

Listed below are a number of General notes on definitions and conventions used throughout the Reference Tables.


Tabular Conventions

Where a range of years is listed in a time series table, e.g. 1951-55, the data presented will be an average for this period. 

Throughout the tables 'year' means 'calendar year' except where otherwise defined. By convention, many of the time series presented start at census years e.g. 1991. 

Rates given as '0' or '0.0' indicate that the actual rate is less than 0.5 and 0.05 respectively. A dash (-) in any cell indicates that there were no events. Dots (...) in any cell indicate that the information is not available, or, in the case of a rate, that the denominatormay not be available. 

In tabulations using ages and age-groups, or years, the sign < followed by a figure means up to but not including the figure stated, e.g. < 4 weeks means 'under 4 weeks'. Where two ages appear in the same column, for example 20-24, both ages inclusive.

The following abbreviations are used:

P -       Persons             NS -     Not Stated

M -       Males                HBA -  Health Board Area 

F -        Females            NK -     Not Known

ICD -    International Classification of Diseases  

Administrative areas

Administrative areas are Council areas and Health Board areas. Note that from 1 January 1998 the Council area formerly as Western Isles became known by its Gaelic name, Eilean Siar.

Date of registration and place of occurrence

All the data presented on births, stillbirths, marriages and deaths relate to the date of registration of the event and not to the date of occurrence. For example, a birth on 31 December 2003 which was registered on 5 January 2004 would be included in the 2004 figures. Births and stillbirths are usually registered within the statutory period of 21 days. Similarly, marriages are usually registered within 3 days and deaths within 8 days. 

Births, stillbirths and deaths have been allocated to the area of usual residence if it is in Scotland, otherwise to the area of occurrence. Marriage figures relate to the area of occurrence.


All population figures refer to estimates at 30 June of the year in question. Throughout these tables, revised annual mid-year estimates of population are used for comparing population trends, and for calculating rates per head, for the period 1982-2000. Population estimates for these years were revised to be in line with the mid-2001 population estimates which were based on the results of the 2001 Census. More information describing the methods used to produce revised population estimates is available on the National Records of Scotland (NRS) website.

Population covered

The estimated population of an area includes all those usually resident there whatever their nationality. Students are treated as being resident at their term-time address. Members of Her Majesty's (HM) and non-United Kingdom armed forces stationed in Scotland are included; HM forces stationed outside Scotland are excluded.


Ages relate to age last birthday.

Population Projections

Population projections for Scotland are prepared by the Government Actuary, at the request of and in consultation with the Registrar General. The latest national projection was in Projected Population of Scotland (2003-based), published in September 2004.

Sub-national projections, consistent with the previous 2002-based national projections, were published in January 2004. More information can be found in the Population Projections Scotland (2002-based) - Population projections by sex, age and administrative area section of this website.


The presumption in law in relation to the registration of births is that the husband of a married woman is the father of her child unless proven otherwise. When parents are not married to each other the mother is the primary informant of the birth and the father's name can only be entered in the register if (a) they register the birth jointly; (b) a court decree is produced declaring the person to be the father or (c) there is produced to the registrar at the time of registration a statutory declaration signed by one parent together with a declaration signed by the other parent in the registrar's presence. A father's name can be added to the register at any time after the birth using (b) or (c) above.

The general fertility rate (GFR) is the number of births per 1000 women of child-bearing age (15-44).

The total fertility rate (TFR) is the average number of children that would be born to a cohort of women who experienced, throughout their childbearing years, the fertility rates of the calendar year in question.

The age specific fertility rate (ASFR) is the number of births per individual for a specific age during a specified time.

The gross reproduction rate is the average number of live daughters that would be born to a cohort of women who experienced, throughout their childbearing years, the fertility rates of the calendar year in question. And the net reproduction rate is the average number of these live daughters that, subject to the mortality rates of the calendar year in question, would survive to the mothers' age at the time of birth.

A cohort is a well-defined group of people who have had a common experience or exposure who are observed through time. For example, the birth cohort of 1900 refers to people born in that year.

Marital status of parents
married parents: refers to parents who are married to each other
unmarried parents: refers to parents who are unmarried or married but not to each other.

Stillbirths and Infant Deaths

Stillbirths Section 56(1) of the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1965 defined a stillbirth as a child which had issued forth from its mother after the 28th week of pregnancy and which did not breathe or show any other sign of life. The Still-Birth (Definition) Act 1992, which came into effect on 1 October 1992, amended Section 56(1) of the 1965 Act (and other relevant UK legislation), replacing the reference to the 28th week with a reference to the 24th week.

The tables in Section 4 show figures for all gestations of 24 weeks or longer but to assist in the interpretation of trends, most time series tables in this report show figures based on both the old and the new definitions.

Perinatal deaths refer to stillbirths and deaths in the first week of life.

Neonatal deaths refer to deaths in the first four weeks of life.

Postneonatal deaths refer to deaths after the first four weeks but before the end of the first year.

Infant deaths refer to all deaths in the first year of life.

Stillbirth rates and perinatal death rates are based on the total of live and still births; neonatal, postneonatal and infant death rates are based on live births only.

Deaths and Cause of Death

Cause of death coding

Causes of death are coded in accordance with the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (Tenth Revision) (ICD10). Classification of underlying cause of death is based on information collected on the medical certificate of cause of death together with any additional information provided subsequently by the certifying doctor. Changes notified to NRS by Procurators Fiscal are also taken into account. In cases of homicide, suicide, and other deaths from violence, advice may be sought from the Crown Office. On 1 January 1996 GROS introduced an automated method of coding cause of death. A detailed note on this may be found in Appendix 1 of the 1996 Annual Report.

From 1 January 2000, deaths in Scotland have been coded using the latest, tenth, revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries and Causes of Death (ICD10).

Cause lists used in these reference tables

Full 3-character list (Table 6.4 ) This shows all 3-character ICD10 codes for which at least one death was recorded during 2001.

Summary list (Tables 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3) The summary list is closely based on a short list of 65 categories recommended by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The NRS list presents 66 categories, including sub-totals for all the main ICD10 Chapters. In the tables using this list, the sub-categories do not necessarily sum to the main groups. The one additional category identified in the NRS list is 'malignant neoplasm of the larynx'; this is combined with 'trachea, bronchus and lung' in the 65 category list.

Perinatal summary list (Tables 4.4 to 4.7)This additional summary list highlights causes associated with the perinatal period. Years of life lost (Table 6.13) provides information on years of life lost for selected causes of death. Simply, the number of years of life lost is the sum of the differences between the age at death and 90 for 'total' years lost or 65 for years of 'working' life lost. Note that the age at death is taken to be the mid-point of a 5 year age band. The period of 'total' life lost is deemed to include all deaths up until the age of 90, so anyone dying at the age of 93 would contribute zero years to the total. The 'working' life period covers all ages between the ages of 15 and 64, and it is assumed that any death under the age of 15 contributes 50 years to the 'working' life lost total. For example someone dying at the age of 38 would contribute 28 years (37 (mid-point of 35-39 year age band) subtracted from 65) to the 'working life' lost total.

Age standardisation

A straight comparison of crude rates between areas may present a misleading picture because of differences in the sex and age structure of the respective populations. The technique of standardisation has been used in certain tables to remedy this. In general, standardisation involves a comparison of the actual number of events occurring in an area with the aggregate number expected if the age/sex specific rates in the standard population were applied to the age/sex groups of the observed population. The results have been expressed either as standardised rates (Tables 1.3 and 1.4) or as standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) where the standard rate (for Scotland or the United Kingdom) equals 100 (Tables 1.5 and 1.7).

Expectation of life

The average number of additional years a person could expect to live if current mortality trends were to continue for the rest of that person's life. Most commonly cited is life expectancy at birth.

The information presented on life expectancy in Tables 5.4 and 5.5 has been produced by the Government Actuary's Department (GAD). The information on life expectancy in Table 5.4 is based on mortality rates for the latest three years. This provides an historical comparison between fluctuations in mortality, which occur in calendar years. Table 5.5 is based on mortality at single year of age rather than mortality on a group of ages. Further detail on life expectancy for specific ages not presented in Table 5.5 or complete life tables for earlier years can be obtained by contacting Customer Services or GAD.

'Life Tables 1990-1992', published as the First Supplement to the 1996 Annual Report of the Registrar General for Scotland, contains details on how GAD prepares the full life tables for Scotland.


The tables in this section cover all marriages which were registered as having taken place in Scotland regardless of the usual residence of the parties involved. A number of couples who are resident in Scotland now go abroad to be married. These marriages are not included in this chapter, and only some come to the attention of the Registrar General through notification to British Consular authorities.

By the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1939, which came into operation on 1 July 1940, civil marriages were introduced and irregular marriages, other than marriages by cohabitation with habit and repute, were abolished. Although two of the three types of irregular marriage were abolished in 1940 all three types of irregular marriage can be established by Decree of Declarator of the Court of Session. The irregular marriages shown in Table 7.6 are those established by Decree of Declarator of the Court of Session in the years shown although the events took place earlier.


The data presented on divorces relate to the date on which the decrees were granted. In all tables the total of divorces includes nullities.

In legal terms the 1976 Act introduced a single ground for divorce - irretrievable breakdown of marriage - with the detailed reasons as 'proofs'. However, the information presented in this report on reasons for divorce retains the terminology 'grounds for divorce'.

Table 8.1 covers divorces granted under the Divorce (Scotland) Act 1976. It excludes 14 cases in 1981 and 4 cases in 1982 where divorces were granted under the Divorce (Scotland) Act 1964. Further details of divorces granted under earlier legislation can be found in previous reports. In legal terms the 1976 Act introduced a single ground for divorce - irretrievable breakdown of marriage - with the detailed reasons as 'proofs'. However, the information presented in this Report on reasons for divorce retains the terminology 'grounds for divorce'.


The Registrar General for Scotland registers adoptions under the Adoption of Children (Scotland) Act 1930.

All statistical publications