Robert Wright: 'The number of people willing to come here and work is limited'

I AM surprised the net migration has remained so high in Scotland, particularly after it more or less collapsed in Ireland.

When we look at the bigger picture, fertility has dropped back over the last six months. Hard economics have impacted on fertility and marriage – which is also falling – but it is interesting that so many people are still coming and living here.

It shows that Scotland is still attractive to those looking to find a job.

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Normally, when we have hard economic times, what happens is movement slows down, fewer people leave and fewer people come.

It's good that at present it is holding up. The general opinion is that we need higher levels of net migration, but the one thing we don't know is whether it will decrease or remain high.

It's also good that over the last few years we've seen an increase in fertility while, at the same time, mortality seems to be declining faster.

The Scottish Parliament has been pushing to improve the health of the population, through things like the smoking ban, and it seems the message is sinking in.

However, the most important thing, particularly as many young people are choosing to leave Scotland, is migration.

Net migration of 20,000 is the minimum we need to make sure we don't have strains on the labour market.

In some parts of Europe they perceive the economic opportunities are better in Scotland than the country they are from, whether that's right or not.

A lot of them are highly skilled, but prepared to take low-skilled jobs, and there will always be demand for people willing to take those jobs.

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However, while these figures are positive, they are from eight months ago. It will be interesting to see if this level of migration is maintained. I don't think it will, I've argued that a lot.

The number of people who will be willing to come here and work is limited. That is why I have pushed for a new migration system, because I don't think net migration into Scotland will stay as high as it is. There is a view in Westminster that they should reduce migration into the UK. If they do that then, by definition, they will also be lowering migration into Scotland.

So there are a lot of unknowns here. It's good news that migration is currently high, but we have got to plan for the future.

• Robert Wright is a professor of economics at Strathclyde University.