20 August 2008

Scotland desperate for 20,000 immigrants per year

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A recent study by the Fraser of Allander Institute has shown Scotland will need 20,000 new immigrants every year if it wants to maintain economic growth, reports the Sunday Times.

The study shows that Scotland’s population will fall by 14 per cent by 2040 if dramatic changes are not made to its recruitment strategy for foreign nationals.  If the trend continues, experts predict the economy will suffer badly, leading to a 9 per cent rise in unemployment and an 8 per cent fall in gross domestic product.  They also warn that Scotland’s position as a global competitor will affect foreign investment and key industries such as fishing and construction.

The study shows that while net migration figures are positive, the trend for people to move to Scotland is declining, and over the next five years the net migration figure will fall from 26,000 to 8,000 immigrants.  The biggest shift in immigration patterns has come from the Polish, who are now returning home in light of improved employment opportunities. 

Kim Swales, Professor of economics at Strathclyde University and co-author of the report said, "As the working age population starts to fall then the labour market starts to tighten, the economy becomes less competitive, particularly vis-à-vis the rest of the UK, which is important for Scotland.  Migration will drive what happens to the economy in the next 20 or 30 years."

Scottish politicians have this year suggested immigration policy reform should reflect the successful Australian points-based system, which works well to meet the specific needs of the local labour force and demographics.  They feel Scotland should have more control over immigration policy so key skills shortages can be filled by foreign workers.

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in UK visa and immigration services.

Article by Jessica Bird, UK Visa Bureau.

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