Scotland’s constitution secretary has called on the UK Government to “engage positively” on immigration reforms – as a new visa pilot scheme is due to be debated.
The Scottish Government has proposed a rural visa pilot scheme in the hopes of stemming projected population drops in more remote parts of the country.
Recent figures from the National Records of Scotland show the population shrinking to 5.39 million by 2045, dropping from a peak of 5.48 million in 2028.
The pilot scheme will be debated in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, with Angus Robertson calling for all parties to back the proposals.
“The UK Government needs to acknowledge the distinct demographic challenges we face in Scotland and work together with the Scottish Government and our partners to deliver tailored migration solutions that meet the needs of our communities, employers, and economy,” the Constitution Secretary said.
“Population growth is a significant driver of our economy and any projected fall in population is likely to have significant implications for public finances and the delivery of key public services, especially in Scotland’s most remote and rural areas.
“Many of these communities are already experiencing acute depopulation and labour market challenges as a result of a deeply damaging Brexit and the end of freedom of movement, which has cut off a valuable and ready supply of workers to fill key posts.
“The Scottish Government, in collaboration with local authorities and the business sector, has developed a rural visa pilot proposal which is designed to help meet the specific needs of some of Scotland’s remote and rural communities within the existing UK immigration system.
“We will be calling on the UK Government to engage positively with us in delivering this proposal as a practical reform to the immigration system.”
The Scottish Government published plans for a completely separate immigration system for Scotland in early 2020, which the First Minister said at the time would help to address population issues, but they were rejected by Westminster.
A UK Government spokesman said: “Immigration is a UK Government reserved matter and the points-based immigration system works in the interest of the whole of the UK.
“Depopulation in Scotland is neither caused nor can be remedied by immigration. As the independent Migration Advisory Committee has noted, rural areas may struggle to retain migrants for the same reasons as with the local population. Investment in jobs and infrastructure – which devolved administrations have powers to address – must be considered.”
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