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McGill & Co is a Scottish immigration law firm specialising in UK immigration, nationality and refugee law.

Calls for the UK’s Immigration Policy to Reflect the Needs of Scotland

31 May 2018 McGill & Co Solicitors Brexit & EU Migration

The essential contribution made by inward migration to Scotland’s population and economy was highlighted in a recent publication by the National Records of Scotland, which revealed that the number of non-British nationals living in Scotland rose by 12% in 2017 compared to the previous year, taking the total number to 378,000. 

Scottish Figures

This can be roughly broken down into 235,000 EU nationals (a rise of 26,000) and 142,000 non-EU nationals (an increase of 14,000).

In total, around 7% of the resident population of Scotland have non-British nationality.

Polish was apparently the most common non-British nationality in Scotland in 2017, with an estimated 99,000 residents accounting for 26% of the total non-British population. Polish nationals account for 2% of residents in Scotland overall.

Interestingly, the highest proportion of residents who are non-British nationals is to be found in Aberdeen City, where 21% of residents (48,000 persons) hold non-British nationality. 

UK Figures

 Similar trends have been seen across the UK as whole, with the number of non-UK population (non-UK born and non-British nationals) continuing to increase in 2017, according to the latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics. In total, the non-UK born population increased from 9.2 million in 2016 to 9.4 million in 2017 (up 3%) and the non-British population increased from 6.0 million to 6.2 million (up 4%). 

Differences between UK and Scottish Governments

The Scottish Government has often been at odds with the UK Government over its approach to immigration. Critics have described the UK Government’s policies as creating a “hostile” environment for immigrants, while the Scottish Government recognises that immigration is vital for the country’s future growth and takes a more welcoming stance. The Scottish Government has also claimed that the UK Government’s immigration policies, targets and criteria don’t reflect the needs of Scotland.

Following the recent appointment of Sajid Javid as Home Secretary, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, wrote to him to highlight “Scotland’s unique population needs” and the critical importance of migration to Scotland’s future prosperity.

In the letter she highlighted that Scotland’s distinct demographics leave it particularly vulnerable to any reduction in inward migration, and that the country’s population growth is projected to be driven entirely by migration.

She also pointed out that immigration is hugely beneficial to the Scottish economy. Recent analysis revealed that the average EU citizen in Scotland adds £10,400 to Government revenue and £34,400 to Gross Domestic Product each year.

A fall in immigration post-Brexit would be detrimental, with projections suggesting that it could reduce Scotland’s real GDP by 4.5% by 2040, which equates to a drop of around £5 billion a year.

She concluded the letter by requesting a meeting as quickly as possible to “discuss the opportunities and ways in which Scotland’s unique migration needs can be recognised – as set out in Scotland’s population needs and migration policy – alongside the ways in which the immigration white paper could properly reflect Scotland’s position and provide certainty and security to EU citizens, who have made their home here that has been denied to those of the Windrush generation.” 

Specialist Brexit Immigration Solicitors in Glasgow & Edinburgh

 To discuss your specific circumstances with one of our experts, contact us today by calling 0131 510 1355 for our Edinburgh office or 0141 280 7660 for our Glasgow office or complete our online enquiry form and a member of our dedicated team will get back to you as soon as possible.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.


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