Scotland needs tailored migration solutions to tackle depopulation challenges.
Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson, has called for cross-party support for the Rural Visa Pilot proposal ahead of Tuesday’s parliamentary debate on population.
The Rural Visa Pilot proposal offers a community-driven approach to migration that can respond to the distinct needs of remote, rural, and island areas which are not met within the current UK Government immigration system.
Scotland has its own distinct immigration requirements, which are different from the rest of the UK, as all future population growth is projected to come from inward migration. But if past trends continue, by 2045 Scotland will have a smaller and older population with growth from migration no longer offsetting the growing gap between births and deaths.
Scotland is the only nation in the UK where the population is projected to fall in the next decade, following a peak of 5.48 million in 2028. Almost half of the country’s 32 local authorities will experience population decline over the same period, with the effect most acutely felt in many rural and island areas.
Mr Robertson said:
“The UK Government needs to acknowledge the distinct demographic challenges we face in Scotland and work together with the Scottish Government and our partners to deliver tailored migration solutions that meet the needs of our communities, employers, and economy.
“Population growth is a significant driver of our economy and any projected fall in population is likely to have significant implications for public finances and the delivery of key public services, especially in Scotland’s most remote and rural areas. Many of these communities are already experiencing acute depopulation and labour market challenges as a result of a deeply damaging Brexit and the end of freedom of movement, which has cut off a valuable and ready supply of workers to fill key posts.
“The Scottish Government, in collaboration with local authorities and the business sector, has developed a Rural Visa Pilot proposal which is designed to help meet the specific needs of some of Scotland’s remote and rural communities within the existing UK immigration system. We will be calling on the UK Government to engage positively with us in delivering this proposal as a practical reform to the immigration system.”
Scotland’s population and the Rural Visa Pilot proposal will be debated in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 27 September 2022.
Headline stats and projections are from: Scotland's Population 2021 - The Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends
The Ministerial Population Taskforce, set up in 2019, published Scotland’s first population strategy in 2021, A Scotland for the future: opportunities and challenges of Scotland's changing population.
As part of the Ministerial Population Taskforce’s priority work to deliver a more balanced population in which all of Scotland’s communities can flourish, the Scottish Government has committed to developing an Addressing Depopulation Action Plan.
The Scottish Government will also launch a Talent Attraction and Migration Service in 2023 to support migrants and Scottish-based employers to move here.
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