Migration: helping Scotland prosper

Paper detailing how a tailored migration policy, within a UK framework, could operate to meet Scotland's distinct needs.

Ministerial Forewords

Migration has always been a key part of Scotland’s history.

Scotland is a welcoming and inclusive nation and we value everyone, no matter where they were born, who has chosen to make Scotland their home; to live, work, study, raise their families and build their lives here.

Migration to Scotland supports economic growth and the delivery of public services. It helps to address the serious issue of long term demographic change and enhances and sustains our communities. All of our future population growth is projected to come from migration and any reduction in migration – whether that’s from the rest of the UK, the EU or internationally – will impact on the size of our working age population. 

Yet the proposals from the UK Government to end freedom of movement and put in place inappropriate salary and skills requirements for all migrants would be disastrous for our economy and society and would risk acute labour shortages. This approach by the UK Government ignores the wider issue of social value and the importance of jobs in sectors like social and health care or in rural and island communities. It ignores the contribution that people who have moved to Scotland make to our cultural life and to our communities.

Migration is an issue which is crucial for our future economic and social wellbeing. We need a solution that meets Scotland’s needs and allows our communities and our economy to flourish.

Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister of Scotland

We are a nation which has been shaped by migration – but in the past that has meant many of our young people leaving Scotland to build a future elsewhere. Our experience of migration throughout much of the twentieth century is distinctly different to that of the rest of the UK. Scotland is one of only four European countries to have had a smaller population in 2001 than it had in 1971.[i]

Yet Scotland is now a nation of in-migration with a growing population. People from across the world are choosing to become new Scots and to make Scotland their home. People from the EU, EEA and Switzerland have been able to choose to live and work here as a result of free movement. This includes people coming here to study who chose to stay after university and forge their careers here. The Scottish Government’s preference would be to continue to benefit from free movement of people as a Member State of the EU. This would help address Scotland’s distinct needs. 

Population projections show that deaths are expected to outnumber births in every one of the next 25 years and the gap is widening – there could be over 18,000 more deaths than births in Scotland in 2043. Scotland is not the only country facing such demographic pressures. Many other nations are facing similar issues and have the policy levers they need to respond to the challenge, including by tailoring their immigration programmes to meet their distinct needs. 

The establishment of the Scottish Parliament was designed to allow distinct solutions to be developed to respond to distinct challenges. Decisions about Scotland’s population and migration needs should be taken by Scottish Ministers, accountable to the Scottish Parliament and to the people of Scotland. There is cross-party consensus in the Scottish Parliament about the benefits that migration has brought to Scotland and wide agreement that Scotland needs the powers to tailor migration policy according to our circumstances. 

We have worked closely with employers, trade unions, elected representatives and individuals to develop proposals to suit Scotland’s needs. We have looked closely at international models to learn about what works in delivering a tailored approach to migration. We are proposing a cohesive, evidence-based approach that meets the needs of all of the country. 

As the world becomes more interconnected people need to move across international boundaries for work and for learning. This includes international students, researchers, artists, performers, people who want to grow their career or indeed just to experience life and work in a different culture. Yet our immigration system is a barrier to this. Scotland can do better.

The current immigration system is not meeting Scotland’s needs. We need a tailored migration policy for Scotland which allows our communities, our economy and our public services to thrive.

Fiona Hyslop
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs

Ben Macpherson
Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development


Email: Migration@gov.scot

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