Thursday, February 18, 2021

Scotland Seeks Immigrants

Migrants are needed to stop population decline in Scotland, a new report has found.

Rural and island communities have been among the worst hit by depopulation in recent years. The number of people of working age in Scotland's remote areas is below the national average, with these parts of the country also having a higher share of pensioners.

One idea put forward by a group advising the Scottish government was for a "Scottish visa" to attract overseas workers to specific areas. The UK government has previously rejected regional immigration rules as overly complicated.

The report, from the Scottish government's expert advisory group on migration and population, put forward three ideas for the Scottish and UK governments to consider:

  • Relaxing conditions of the UK government's skilled worker visa for specific geographic areas through a "shortage occupation" list.
  • A points-based "Scottish visa" allowing migrants with the relevant skills to move to designated rural areas.
  • A scheme to identify jobs seen as crucial for mitigating population decline and the private and public sector then working together to protect these types of occupations.

The report makes the point that a new scheme "should not aim to achieve 'replacement migration' to offset population decline". It adds: "Rather, it should be targeted to attract migrants with the skills and profile that would best address socio-economic challenges created by population decline."

Roddie MacKay, leader of Western Isles authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said the report's options were "very interesting" and resonated with the council's own idea for "repopulation zones".

He said: "These would be designated areas where the challenge of population decline is acutest and where policy initiatives would be focused and targeted on reversing decline. Each zone would have targeted measures around economic development and a focused approach around jobs dispersal/decentralisation of public sector jobs."

Certainly not the unrestricted mobility of labour that many advocate but another signal we see of many nations' attempts to reverse their demographic population imbalances as the global fertility rate continues to fall. 

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