Inward Migration (Rest of the UK)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 22 February 2024.

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Photo of Ivan McKee Ivan McKee Scottish National Party

4. To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to attract more working-age people from the rest of the United Kingdom to come and live, work and pay tax in Scotland. (S6O-03105)

Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

We will continue to take action across Government and with partners to promote Scotland as a career destination, highlighting the breadth of job opportunities available across Scotland. The things that set Scotland apart from the rest of the UK, such as free prescriptions and access to a world-class education system, show that Scotland is a welcoming, inclusive and diverse society. As part of this approach, in 2024, the Scottish Government will launch a talent attraction and migration service to help to attract, relocate and settle working-age people and their families in Scotland, including people who are currently living in the rest of the UK.

Photo of Ivan McKee Ivan McKee Scottish National Party

Scotland already benefits from more working-age people coming here from the rest of the UK to live and work than those who move in the opposite direction. A modest 20 per cent increase in the number of people moving to Scotland would have the potential, if they were all higher-rate taxpayers, to raise an additional £1 billion in income tax revenues over the course of a parliamentary session. What proactive work is the Scottish Government doing to attract more working-age people from the rest of the UK, and what results has that work delivered so far?

Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

Ivan McKee is right to point out the economic impact and benefit of having more working-age people. Employers are helping us to develop the talent attraction and migration service to ensure that it can support businesses to attract workers from outwith Scotland who have the skills that are needed.

Our addressing depopulation action plan outlines support for local communities and economies to be sustainable, which includes attracting the skills and people that are needed. Evidence shows that those who choose Scotland as their home help to grow our economy, increase productivity and innovation and address skills shortages. They also contribute positively to communities, culture and public services. As I have already stated, the unique benefits of living in Scotland set us apart from the rest of the UK.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

There are several supplementary questions.

Photo of Pam Gosal Pam Gosal Conservative

Any understanding of the Laffer curve seems to escape members on the Scottish National Party front benches. Rather than increasing the number of taxpayers, the SNP seems hellbent on sending them away in what has been termed the “tartan exodus”. One of the main deterrents to living and working in Scotland is the widening tax gap, which is also likely to impede the economic growth that is needed to deliver public services. When taxpayers leave—as is inevitable—how does the minister intend to protect spending on public services?

Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

Investment in public services is crucial, as the member has said. That is exactly what we are providing through our progressive tax system, which asks those who are on the higher earning scale to pay a little bit more into the public purse to allow us to provide the types of services that will encourage people to live and work in Scotland. I think that people choose where to live based on many factors and not simply because of their tax bracket. I hope that the offer that we have been putting forward to people, as I outlined in my answers to Ivan McKee, will encourage the people with the skills that we need to make their lives in Scotland.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

I am genuinely puzzled. Net migration to the UK was at 750,000 last year, but the population in Scotland is projected to decline. Why are we not managing to attract more of those 750,000 people?

Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

I have been clear throughout all engagement in the chamber on the topic of migration that the UK’s migration system does not work for Scotland. The fact that people are not managing to move to Scotland and that they are not seeing the unique offer that Scotland has for them when using the routes that they are able to take to come to the UK, is a symptom of that issue. We are proposing changes to a range of things, including through introducing the talent attraction and migration system, which will allow people to be matched to highly skilled jobs that they can take up in Scotland. We are also proposing to the UK Government that asylum seekers be allowed the right to work in Scotland, and we are asking that the offers in Scotland are communicated properly to people who seek a place where they can contribute positively to a community.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I warmly congratulate the minister on the work that she is doing in relation to tackling the question of depopulation in parts of Scotland. That goes to the heart of being part of a Government that acts in the interests of the whole of the country.

Will the minister commit to work with colleagues with different responsibilities to ensure that we link the work on tackling depopulation to the work on economic opportunity, so that, in some of the more isolated and remote areas of Scotland, we are able to create a growing population based on good, strong economic opportunities?

Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

Absolutely.

An exciting part of the work on addressing depopulation is the fact that it involves every portfolio across Government. I will work with ministers whose responsibilities cover all areas because we know that the drivers of depopulation and the ways in which we can attract people to those areas that are suffering depopulation, and retain them there, touch on every area of Government. I will work with ministers who are responsible for the economy, transport, housing and the environment to make sure that we empower people to remain in the communities that they grew up in, to take up skilled work in areas that are suffering depopulation and to rebalance our population and ensure that public services can be sustainable, no matter where they are.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Questions 5 and 6 have been withdrawn.