SCOTLAND’S immigrant population has almost doubled in a decade and is growing faster than in the rest of the UK, a new study has found.
There were 369,284 people born outside the UK living in Scotland in 2011, compared with 191,571 in 2001. This is a 93 per cent increase, compared with 61 in England, 82 in Wales, and 72 in Northern Ireland.
Despite this, the proportion of immigrants in Scotland remains far lower than England and Wales, at 7 per cent compared to 13.
The Scottish Government set out plans to grow immigration in its white paper on independence, Scotland’s Future, believing it will boost the economy.
But there are concerns over how differing immigration policies north and south of the Border would work, if Scotland votes Yes next year.
Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva, the senior researcher at Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, said: “This is the last census before the referendum on independence, and population is an important part of the discussion.
“While Scotland still has a much smaller foreign-born population than England, it has almost doubled in a decade.
“By far the biggest change has been the increase in the Polish-born population, which increased more than 20-fold, becoming the biggest immigrant group in Scotland.
“But because Scotland started with a much smaller immigrant population than England – both numerically and in terms of its share of the overall population – smaller numerical growth can be considerably bigger growth in percentage terms.”
Edinburgh has the highest number of immigrants with 75,696, but Aberdeen’s 35,436 is the largest proportionately, representing 16 per cent of the population. And Glasgow has seen the largest increase in numbers, up by almost 40,000 in a decade.
The huge numbers of Poles coming to Scotland has been largely responsible for the rise.
While the immigrant population has almost doubled, the 55,231 Poles living in Scotland in 2011 was more than 20 times higher than in 2001.
However, Andrew Kocha, a trustee at the Polish Family Support Centre in Edinburgh, said: “When you look at the job market it’s quite difficult to find work, so it’s not as attractive to Polish people,” he said.
“We have had a couple of people come to us and say, if we don’t find work soon we will have to go home. So I think numbers will decrease because of the lack of jobs.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The current Westminster approach is strongly focused on reducing the overall numbers of migrants and introducing number caps for certain categories of skilled individuals.
“With independence, each of these decisions would be for Scottish governments, with policy choices taken on the basis of Scotland’s needs and priorities.”