Scotland has recorded the second highest number of winter deaths in 30 years with the spike largely due to coronavirus, official figures show.
The number of deaths was 10% higher than the average of the previous five winters, according to the National Records of Scotland (NRS).
There were 23,370 deaths registered during the four months of winter 2020-21 — a total of 4,330 higher than the average before and after that period.
Covid-19 was recorded as the cause of 2,850 of the additional deaths, accounting for almost two thirds of cases (65.8%).
The other causes of death with the largest seasonal increases last winter were dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and coronary (ischaemic) heart disease – both with 210 additional deaths each.
Very few deaths were directly due to cold weather such as hypothermia, the NRS said, while mental, behavioural or nervous system conditions resulted in 70 additional deaths, and cancer accounted for 60. Accidental falls was recorded as the underlying cause of 50 additional deaths.
The seasonal increase in mortality of 4,330 for winter 2020-21 was the second highest in more than 20 years.
Only winter 2017-18 had a larger seasonal increase (4,810) since the turn of the millennium.
Last winter, of those aged 85 and over there were 13 additional deaths per 1,000 of the population, compared with fewer than one death per 1,000 amongst those aged under 65.
Pete Whitehouse, director of statistical services at the NRS, said: “These figures show again the significant impact Covid-19 had on Scotland last winter.
“Compared to the average of the previous five winters, the winter of 2020/21 saw a 10% higher level of mortality, with the majority of additional deaths being due to Covid-19.”
Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie warned that Scotland was “on track for another winter catastrophe” if the government fails to act, with A&E waiting times at a record high.
She said: “Last year’s tragic winter death toll is a heart-breaking reminder of how high the stakes are as we head into winter.
“We must do everything possible to make sure we don’t see this scale of devastation again – but as it stands we are woefully unprepared.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “Last year mortality soared as we were struck by a once-in-a-century global pandemic. This was made all the worse by a lack of preparation and a series of questionable ministerial decisions.
“This year, with vaccines on hand and months to prepare, SNP ministers will not have the same excuse.
“Staff and patients are already ringing alarm bells. Our NHS needs a champion to lead it through the winter months, not a casual and disinterested Health Secretary and his half-hearted recovery plan.”
The data was released as Scotland recorded another 1,908 new cases of coronavirus, with 27 deaths reported of patients who had recently tested positive for Covid-19.
As of Monday evening, 935 patients were in hospital with the virus and 51 were in intensive care.
There were 4,631 first doses and 1,702 second doses of the vaccination administered in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of people who have had one and two vaccines to 4,265,755 and 3,866,372 respectively.