The UK Government’s immigration plans could reduce the number of workers in Scotland by up to 5% over the next two decades, it has been suggested.
An advisory group, chaired by Professor Christina Boswell of the University of Edinburgh, was asked to give independent expert advice to the Scottish Government on migration, population growth and demographic change.
In its findings, the group indicated that under the proposals put forward in the UK Government’s White Paper, net migration to Scotland could be reduced by between one third and one half after 2020.
The plan would see a salary threshold introduced, under which people earning less than £30,000 would not be allowed admittance to the UK.
However, it is estimated that 63% of workers in Scotland currently earn below that level.
The group also suggested that the threshold would exclude a greater proportion of women than men, as well as younger people at the start of their careers.
Migration Minister Ben Macpherson said: “The Scottish Government has been consistently clear that freedom of movement has enriched Scotland and should be allowed to continue.
“The UK Government’s focus on reducing immigration will damage Scotland and does not reflect the needs of our economy, our public services or our communities.
“This independent report raises additional concerns about the effect UK Government immigration proposals will have on Scotland’s rural and suburban areas and demographics.
“The findings also reinforce the case for creating fair, tailor-made immigration solutions for Scotland that value all skills, work for businesses and support the delivery of public services across the country”.
Professor Boswell, said: “As the UK Government elaborates its proposals for immigration policy after Brexit, it is vital that we understand the effects of changes to migration on Scotland’s economy and society.
“If the UK Government’s proposals are enacted, we are likely to see a substantial fall in net migration to Scotland over the coming decades.
“We also find that the proposed changes would have gender impacts, potentially leading to a lower proportion of female migrants.
“We suggest that discussion on the UK’s future immigration system needs to be underpinned by more comprehensive analysis on the range of effects, across different sectors, local areas, and by gender.”
Andrew McRae, FSB Scotland, said: “This thorough report details the real impact that current immigration proposals could have on local communities, economies and businesses.
“It chimes with feedback from our membership and reinforces the case for an alternative approach to be developed.
“Fewer working age people in Scotland will make it more difficult to run a business, especially in rural areas and in a number of key sectors. We need to see UK policymakers reflect on this study’s findings, as well as the message they’re getting from business, and take a more measured approach.”
A UK Government spokesman said: “The new immigration system, operating from 2021, is designed to help drive up wages and productivity across the UK economy, including in Scotland, and will support businesses, communities and our public services.
“One of its strengths is the flexibility of being a skills-based immigration system, which will allows us to attract the talented workers we need but also delivering on the referendum result and ending free movement.
“We are making every effort to understand the specific needs of the whole of the UK, which is why we are engaging with business, devolved administrations and the public about our plans throughout 2019.
“At the same time, the Scottish Government must do more to shoulder their share of the responsibility for making Scotland an attractive place for people to live, work and put down roots.”