Skip to navigation Skip to content

Migration vital to Scotland's future workforce, expert panel finds

Migration is considered vital for Scotland's population growth
"Scotland can learn a lot from how other countries use immigration programmes to address skills and occupational shortages and attract and retain people in remote and rural areas"

A report published by the Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population says that immigration schemes can be an ‘immediate and direct’ way to tackle depopulation in Scotland and warns of a fall in Scotland’s working-age population if immigration drops substantially alongside declining fertility.

The document, commissioned by the Scottish Government and produced by a group chaired by Professor Christina Boswell of the University of Edinburgh and including James Hutton Institute social researcher Dr Andrew Copus, says immigration programmes are a 'swift and reliable’ way to increase the labour force.

The report highlights immigration projects in Australia, Canada and Europe - including differentiated regional policies - tailored to address general depopulation, labour market shortages and geographical imbalances.

The report says: “Older populations will require expanded social security, health and social care, implying both a higher fiscal burden and increased demand for goods and services. This will produce especially acute labour shortages in areas such as social and health care.”

Migration Minister Ben Macpherson said: “This independent report raises significant concerns about the distinct challenges Scotland faces. The impact of Brexit on immigration will only exacerbate these challenges, alongside a record fall in the birth rate and a growing ageing population. If left unchecked these changes will have a serious impact on communities across Scotland raising the risk of labour shortages in key sectors.

“These findings reinforce the case for the Scottish Government to be able to implement tailored migration policies that reflect Scotland’s needs, values and aspirations. This will enable Scotland to maintain its strong reputation as an open, welcoming and attractive place to live and work and a country that continues to value all skills to grow our businesses and support the delivery of public services.”

Professor Christina Boswell of the University of Edinburgh, who chairs the independent expert group, said: “Scotland can learn a lot from how other countries use immigration programmes to address skills and occupational shortages and attract and retain people in remote and rural areas.

“The report looks at a range of examples from Australia, Canada, Spain and Sweden, all of which build in a wider range of skills and occupations compared to the current UK immigration system. These schemes show immigration programmes can be an efficient and effective means of addressing demographic challenges when carefully designed and implemented.”

Dr Andrew Copus, of the James Hutton Institute’s Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences group, added: “Policy to address population decline, like that for climate change, can be designed to either mitigate the trend or adapt to it, aiming to improve the lives of the residual population. Some will be national ‘spatially blind’ policies, others will be more locally targeted or place-based. The net effect will be a complex mix of mitigation and adaptation.

"As the National Islands Plan is rolled out, and with the possibility of extending similar approaches to remote rural areas, a clear understanding of the scale of the mitigation challenge, and clear thinking about the role of adaptation is very important. However, it is important to be realistic that full mitigation might not be achievable.”

Scotland’s population is at a record high of 5.4 million, but the increase is solely down to migration because the number of deaths exceeds births. In a previous report, the expert group warned UK Government immigration plans could reduce migration by up to 50 per cent in Scotland.

Official figures published in October project the working-age population in Scotland is set to fall by 7,000 by mid-2043, and all of Scotland's population growth for the next 25 years is projected to come from migration.

The independent advisory group’s latest report is available on the Scottish Government's website.

Press and media enquiries: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).

Printed from /news/migration-vital-scotlands-future-workforce-expert-panel-finds on 24/04/24 10:22:54 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.