THE number of people living in Helensburgh has fallen by almost one in 20 since 2011, according to the government’s latest population estimates.

Research by the National Records of Scotland suggests that 15,297 people were living in the town as of June 30, 2018 – a fall of 5 per cent compared to the 16,066 living in the town on the same date seven years earlier.

And the population of the wider Helensburgh and Lomond area is estimated to have fallen by 2 per cent over the same period, from 25,581 to 25,019.

The data is contained in the latest ‘small area mid-year population estimates’ for Scotland, published by the NRS on Tuesday.

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The figures released this week divide every part of Scotland into mini ‘data zones’ – of which there are 36 in the Helensburgh and Lomond area.

Among them is the most densely populated area of the entire country – located not in Helensburgh, but in Garelochhead.

That data zone was estimated to have a population of no fewer than 3,658 people as of June 30 last year – and the reason is that the zone in question takes in HM Naval Base Clyde, with its extensive accommodation on site at Faslane for military personnel.

The annual estimates are based on the figures in the last census, held in 2011, which are updated annually by 'ageing on' the population and applying information on births and deaths – both from data on the civil registration system – and on migration, which is harder to calculate but is derived from a number of sources, including the NHS Central Register, the Community Health Index and the International Passenger Survey.

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In a covering note accompanying the report, the NRS said: "NRS is conducting an on-going exercise to improve the quality of data zone population estimates. Areas where estimates are less reliable tend to be those with high levels of migration - for example, student areas."

The 36 data zones in Helensburgh and Lomond include six in Helensburgh West and Rhu, seven in Helensburgh North, four in Helensburgh Centre and six in Helensburgh East, which also covers Cardross.

There are also five data zones in ‘Lomond Shore’ – covering the west shore of Loch Lomond, as well as Arrochar and Tarbet – and eight in the ‘Garelochhead’ area, which, for measuring purposes, also takes in the whole of the Rosneath peninsula as well as Faslane.

Eighty-seven of the 125 data zones across the whole of Argyll and Bute show a declining population in the seven years from 2011 to 2018 – the sixth highest percentage for all of Scotland’s 32 council areas.

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A council spokesman said: “The future success of Argyll and Bute is built on a growing population, and this is something the council and its partners are very much focused on.

“Our Rural Growth Deal is one means of securing investment that will see Argyll and Bute lead the way in key sectors like marine science and food and drink.

“This could attract the people and talent we need for our future and lead to fantastic opportunities at home for our young people.”