Scotland needs a bespoke immigration system to bolster our dwindling population

Remember the millennium – an era of apocalyptic warnings?

Some were overblown – such as the millennium computer bug that didn’t bite. But some were real.

In Scotland, there was talk of a “demographic timebomb”. Too few babies were being born to replace people who died or left.

Our population was predicted to fall below the totemic five million figure. Worse still, the number of working-age people was set to plummet – threatening our economy.

The problem was so acute Jack McConnell, the former Labour first minister, set up a scheme to attract more migrants. It was called Fresh Talent.


Then, suddenly, the time bomb stopped ticking. It failed to detonate because in 2004 the European Union expanded, meaning thousands of young people came to live and work here.

Many are still with us, the 181,000 EU citizens now living in Scotland who enrich our lives and contribute to our communities.

Scotland’s population grew by 283,000 between 2000 and 2015 and the number born outside the UK increased by 152 per cent. Half the increase was from the EU, and a large number of these, 86,000, are Polish.

These figures were included in evidence gathered for a report of the Scottish Parliament ’s European committee on EU migration and citizens’ rights.

The report recommended that Scotland needed its own bespoke immigration system, to ensure we have the people we need in future.

The most frightening piece of evidence imagined a future where there was no more EU migration to the UK. It showed the number of young people and children in sharp decline.

Read the rest of my column here.

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