Shetland had the highest birth rate of any health board area in Scotland last year with 278 live babies entering the world.
The number of successful pregnancies during 2008 equates to a rate of 12.7 babies per 1,000 people in Shetland, half a per cent higher than the next most prolific breeders in the NHS areas of Lothian and Lanarkshire.
The figures from the General Register Office for Scotland do show that, when measured by local authority area, there are three parts of the country with a marginally higher reproduction rate than Shetland – Clackmannanshire, Falkirk and North Lanarkshire – but, when measured by NHS area, Shetland pushes to the front.
In numbers, the 278 new arrivals handsomely exceeded the total of 211 islanders who died in 2008. That healthy replenishment did not happen in many areas of Scotland, including Orkney and the Western Isles.
The situation in the Western Isles looks particularly bleak with its 256 live babies last year giving it the second-lowest birth rate in Scotland of just 9.7 per 1,000 of its population, which fell far short of replacing the 346 people who died. The Western Isles had Scotland’s highest death rate of 13.2 per 1,000 people.
Shetland has been enjoying a boom in baby numbers in recent years after a period of dwindling reproduction since the mid-1990s. A separate set of government statistics released last year revealed Shetland had the highest birth rate in Scotland for the year ending 31st March 2007. The figures showed the highest birth rate in Shetland for 12 years with 40 more babies than the previous year giving a total of 266.