7. To ask the Scottish Government what analysis has been done of the impact that ending freedom of movement for European Union citizens after Brexit will have on the national health service. (S5O-03897)
The Scottish Government remains deeply concerned about the ending of free movement and the imposition of a restrictive system in its place. That could reduce the working-age population of Scotland by 5 per cent, and it will make Scotland a less attractive destination for skilled workers, such as doctors, dentists and midwives. Scotland is also projected to experience more pronounced population ageing than other parts of the United Kingdom. Taken together, those issues will lead to challenges for our NHS. We have a unique demographic need in Scotland. We will publish a further paper in January 2020 on why Scotland needs powers to deliver a tailored migration system.
Research by the Nuffield Trust has revealed that Conservative and Labour Brexit policies pose a real risk to NHS staffing numbers. Does the cabinet secretary agree that the only way to protect our valuable NHS is by fully protecting and strengthening freedom of movement and encouraging EU migration?
I absolutely agree. The Scottish Government values the contributions made by nationals of other EU and European Economic Area countries to our NHS, and we want them to stay. We want to be able to attract talented people from across the world to work in our NHS, without excessive barriers. That is why we have made the case for a tailored migration policy for Scotland.
We do not believe that a restrictive immigration model that limits free movement and subjects people to high fees is conducive to the creation of an effective, responsive and welcoming migration system, which is what our health and social care system requires.