Scotland's census: With 20% of population over 65, we need new UK approach to immigration – Scotsman comment

Scotland population would be falling without inward immigration with potentially dire economic consequences

In 1921, Scotland was home to nearly 292,000 people aged 65 and over, making up six per cent of the population. New census data shows that number is now 1,091,000, more than 20 per cent of our 5,436,600 citizens.

There are a number of reasons behind this, but the NHS is surely the most important. For that, its doctors, nurses and other staff should take a bow and receive rapturous applause from a grateful nation. In addition to relieving pain and suffering, they have transformed society in a myriad of ways, such as enabling many more children to get to know their grandparents. However, in doing all this good, the NHS has created more work for itself – one factor behind the current pressure on the health service and social care system.

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It has also had an economic effect, as growth is strongly influenced by the working-age population. This is why the retirement age has been rising and also why economists fear “brain drains” as emigration, in a large enough number, can lead to a recession.

Fortunately for Scotland, our population is increasing – by 141,200 since 2011 – but only because of immigration. Without people moving here from the rest of the UK and overseas, there would be nearly 50,000 fewer people in Scotland than 12 years ago.

Reducing immigration may be a priority for some in the UK, but it would be a disaster for Scotland. It therefore seems reasonable to create visas that allow people from other countries to come to the UK, providing they agree to live in Scotland, as is done in regions of Australia. The SNP government has called for the power to do this, but the UK Government wouldn’t necessarily need to devolve it. They could instead take the credit, while demonstrating their “stop the boats” rhetoric is not simply pandering to prejudice.

Collectively, we are living longer, happier and healthier lives than a century ago and that’s to be celebrated. However, as with any long-term trends whose scope lies outside the political cycle, the potential downsides cannot be ignored or, eventually, we will pay a heavy price.



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