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Migration and Scotland

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:01 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Attorney General) 4:01 pm, 11th February 2020

I shall come to that point later in my speech, if I may, but I can think of examples that are much closer to home than those that the hon. Gentleman has given. For instance, the Republic of Ireland has an open border with a country that has a completely independent immigration system, but no one seems to think it necessary to close the border to the north, or to introduce routine checks at ferry ports or anywhere else.

All the reasons why such a tailored approach is necessary have been rehearsed repeatedly by my hon. Friends in the House for several years, and have been set out in a series of Scottish Government Papers as well as in independent reports. Historically, Scotland’s population story has been one of out-migration. Only since 2001 has the country seen a sustained period of net in-migration, driven by a growth in both the number of EU citizens and the number of people from the rest of the UK who are coming to live and work in Scotland. While that recent history of in-migration and population growth has been welcome, the old history has left us with a legacy of a rapidly increasing older population and a smaller share of younger working-age people. Those challenges are not unique, but they are more pronounced in Scotland than in other parts of the UK and, indeed, Europe.

Looking ahead towards mid-2043, even as matters stand, we see that all Scotland’s very modest projected population growth is set to be from in-migration, with more deaths than births expected each year. Our working-age population is expected to remain the same size, but the population of older people will increase. Those trends are either distinct to Scotland in the UK context, or far more pronounced than they are in the UK as a whole.