Population: Where We Live

1.  Key points

The 2011 Census enumerated the population of Argyll and Bute at 88,166.  The National Records of Scotland (NRS) more recent mid-year estimates calculated Argyll and Bute’s population to be 86,810 (NRS’ 2017-based Mid Year Estimates).

  • Argyll and Bute covers a land area of 690,946 hectares and is the second largest local authority by area in Scotland, after Highland (Census 2011).
  • Argyll and Bute covers almost 9% of the total Scottish land area (Census 2011). 
  • Argyll and Bute has the third sparsest population of the 32 Scottish local authorities, with an average population density of 0.13 persons per hectare.  This compares to a Scottish average of 0.65 persons per hectare (Census 2011).
  • The largest settlement in Argyll and Bute is Helensburgh, with a population of 15,610 (MRS's 2016-based Settlement Estimates). This figure is for the Helensburgh locality. 
  • 48.4% of Argyll and Bute’s population live in areas classified by the Scottish Government as ‘rural’ (Scottish Government Urban-Rural Classification 2016).
  • 43% of Argyll and Bute’s population live in areas classified as ‘remote rural’; 4.2% live in areas classified as ‘accessible rural’.
  • Almost 80% of Argyll and Bute’s population live within 1 km of the coast.  Approximately 97% of Argyll and Bute’s population live between 0 and 10km of the coast (Scottish Coastal Forum 2002).
  • According to the 2101 Census, approximately 17.1% of Argyll and Bute’s population (15,105 people) live on islands.

2. Introduction

There are a number of ways in which we can think about the geography of our area.  This page looks at a number of these, and how they relate to population patterns across and within the Council area.

3.  Administrative areas

 The Council area is divided up into four Administrative Areas, which are frequently used for service planning within the area.  These are

  • Bute and Cowal.
  • Helensburgh and Lomond.
  • Oban, Lorn and the Isles.
  • Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands (see map 1 and table 1).

  Map 1: Argyll and Bute: Administrative Areas

 Argyll and Bute Administrative Areas 

 Table 1: Population by Administrative Area 

AreaPopulation (NRS 2016 Mid-Year Estimates)
Bute and Cowal20,405
Helensburgh and Lomond26,421
Oban, Lorn and the Isles20,211
Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the Islandsn20,093
Total87,130

4  Islands

There are 23 inhabited islands in Argyll and Bute (Census 2011).  These are: Bute; Coll; Colonsay; Danna; Easdale; Eilean da Mheinn; Erraid; Gigha; Gometra; Inchtavannach; Innischonan; Iona; Islay; Jura; Kerrera; Lismore; Luing; Mull; Oronsay; Seil; Shuna; Tiree; Ulva. (See table 2.)

Argyll and Bute’s inhabited islands had, at the time of the 2011 Census, a total population of 15,105.  This equated to 17.1% of the total population for Argyll and Bute.

Table 2: Population and households by island (2011 figures)

IslandPopulationHouseholds
Bute6,4983,387
Coll19587
Colonsay12470
Danna11
Davaar--
Easdale5929
Eiean da Mheinn11
Erraid64
Gigha16374
Gometra21
Inchtavannach31
Innischonan52
Iona17769
Islay3,2281,479
Jura19693
Kerrera3419
Lismore19293
Luing19598
Lunga (Luing)--
Mull2,8001,271
Oronsay84
Sanda--
Seil551252
Shuna (Luing)31
Tiree653316
Ulva116
Total15,1057,358
(Source: Census 2011)  

 5.  Urban and rural populations

The Scottish Government’s 6-Fold Urban Rural Classification (2009-10) classifies the whole of Scotland into the following categories:

1. Large Urban Areas: settlements of over 125,000 people
2. Other urban areas: settlements of 10,000 to 125,000 people
3. Accessible small towns: settlements of between 3,000 and 10,000 people and within 30 minutes drive time of a settlement of 10,000 or more
4. Remote small towns: settlements of between 3,000 and 10,000 people and with a drive time of over 30 minutes to a settlement of 10,000 or more
5. Accessible rural: settlements of less than 3,000 people (or areas with no settlements) and within 30 minutes drive of a settlement of 10,000 or more
6. Remote rural: settlements of less than 3,000 people (or areas with no settlements) and with a drive time of over 30 minutes to a settlement of 10,000 or more.

Table 4 shows how the population of Argyll and Bute is distributed between the categories used in the Urban-Rural classification.  Over half Argyll and Bute’s population lives in areas identified as being ‘rural’.  In turn, ‘rural’ areas account for over 99% of Argyll and Bute’s total land area.

Table 3: Population living in the six categories of the Scottish Government's 6-Fold Urban Rural Classification 

6-Fold Urban-Rural ClassificationPercentage total population
1. Large urban areas0.0
2. Other urban areas17.9
3. Accessible small towns4.2
4. Remote small towns30.6
5. Accessible rural4.2
6. Remote rural43.0
Total100.0

 (Source: Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification 2016.)

7  Settlements

Different organisations define settlements in different ways.  The NRS defines a settlement  as a ‘contiguous group of high density postcodes with a population of 500 or more’ .  According to this definition, Argyll and Bute has 20 settlements (see table 4).

Table 4: Settlement populations

SettlementPopulation (2010-based Settlement Estimates)
Ardrishaig1,290
Bowmore720
Campbeltown4,670
Cardross2,110
Dunbeg610
Dunoon, Settlement of9,140
Garelochhead3,700
Helensburgh, Settlement of15,610
Innellan1,210
Inveraray560
Kilcreggan1,270
Lochgilphead2,300
Oban8,490
Port Bannatyne1,140
Port Ellen810
Rosneath1,240
Rothesay4,390
Tarbert1,130
Tighnabruaich520
Tobermory1,010
(Source: NRS Mid 2016 Population Estimates for Settlements) 

 By comparison, Argyll and Bute Council’s Development Plan suggests that six dwellings is the minimum number of units that comprise a ‘minor settlement’.  On the basis of this definition, there are some 215 to 220 settlements within the local authority area.  Approximately 83% of the area’s population live in, and 17% live outwith, these settlements.  Almost a quarter of the area’s population live in settlements of less than 1,000 people or outwith a settlement entirely.

Data verified: May 2018