Births in Scotland have hit their lowest level since records began, new figures show.
National Records of Scotland (NRS) provisional statistics reveal that there were 12,580 babies born across the country between October and December 2018, giving a rate of 9.2 births per 1,000 people.
This is a 1.8% drop on the same period the previous year, taking births to the lowest level since civil registration began in 1855.
It marks the second consecutive record low, following on from the previous historic low in July to September 2018.
Compared to the quarter average for the past five years, births are down 5.9%.
The October to December figure has been falling since 2008, when 14,540 births were registered in the three months.
NRS said there is no single reasons for the drop but possible causes could include women giving birth later in life, often leading to fewer children, as well as economic uncertainty, particularly as the beginning of the recent fall began with the 2008 financial crash.
The latest figures also show 14,484 deaths were registered between October and December 2018, 4.7% lower than the same period the previous year – a rate of 10.6 deaths per 1,000 people.
Compared to the five-year average for quarter October to December, deaths have risen by 0.6%.
There were 6,125 marriages registered in the final three months of 2018, up 2.5% on the previous year.
Of these, 227 were same sex marriages – 25 of which were changes from civil partnerships – down marginally from the 228 registered between October and December 2017.
There were 24 civil partnerships between October and December 2018, one more than the same period the previous year.
Registrar General for Scotland Paul Lowe said: “Continuing the downward trend since 2008, births for the fourth quarter of 2018 has been at its lowest number recorded since civil registration began.
“This is the second record-low number of quarterly births in a row, with quarter three also falling to its lowest level in 2018.
“The number of deaths fell compared to the recent peak recorded in the fourth quarter of 2017, but was slightly higher than the average of the previous five years.”