Scottish Government's Rural Visa Pilot could help reverse depopulation, but will Tory government co-operate? – Angus Robertson MSP

Scotland has a major population challenge: it is set to decline.
Scotland's population is set to fall (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)Scotland's population is set to fall (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)
Scotland's population is set to fall (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

Uniquely among the UK nations, the number of people here is projected to go down, which will have a profoundly challenging impact on our society and economy.

Scotland has its own distinct immigration requirements, which are different from the rest of the UK, as all future population growth is projected to come from inward migration.

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But if past trends continue, by 2045 Scotland will have a smaller and older population with growth from migration no longer offsetting the increasing gap between births and deaths.

Almost half of the country’s 32 local authorities will experience population decline over the same period, with the effect most acutely felt in many rural and island areas.

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.

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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.

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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.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary