Scotland's population needs and migration policy: discussion paper

Discussion paper on evidence, policy and powers for the Scottish Parliament in relation to migration.


119. This paper has argued that migration provides significant benefit to Scotland's demography, economy and society, and has presented evidence to support that. It builds on the substantial evidence and analysis published in the Scottish Government response to the recent MAC call for evidence; in Scotland's Place in Europe; and in Scotland's Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment, released in January 2018.

120. Long-term demographic trends reflected in official population projections will see the proportion of the population of state pension age rise, with the over-75 age group increasing significantly. There will be more deaths than births in every year of the projection period, up to 2041. All of Scotland's projected population growth will come from inward migration - but long-term international migration is expected to decline after Brexit, inhibiting Scotland's population growth.

121. Migrants also contribute to economic growth, bringing new skills and perspectives to the labour market, raising productivity and increasing innovation. They play a vital role in our key sectors and public services. Scottish Government economic modelling shows that each EU citizen working in Scotland adds £34,400 to GDP on average, and contributes £10,400 in government revenue. New economic modelling in this paper shows the negative impact to Scotland's economic prospects as a consequence of reduced migration, and the potential economic gains if migration was sustained.

122. Just as importantly, migrants make a positive contribution to Scottish society. They help sustain communities in rural Scotland, and help ensure that Scotland is an open, modern European nation.

123. What Scotland needs from policy and systems on migration is different from the rest of the UK. Current UK policy to restrict migration, and the potential consequences of a hard Brexit, have thrown this into relief and make the case more urgent for a different approach in Scotland. Whatever the outcome of the EU withdrawal negotiations and the shape of our new relationship with the EU, and however UK policy changes in future, significant differences remain between Scotland and other parts of the UK. The evidence clearly illustrates Scotland's distinctive challenges in relation to demography and the age structure of the population, the fragility of rural communities and the role of migration in helping mitigate those challenges.

124. These differences therefore require a different policy response in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK. Policy and systems that might be appropriate for other parts of the UK are not appropriate for Scotland. The case for a different approach in Scotland, with new powers for the Scottish Parliament to control migration to meet Scotland's needs, is clear.


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