Brexit fears as migration into Scotland falls after EU vote

Scotland's population has risen for the eighth year in a row and now stands at its highest ever level, official figures have revealed.

According to data released by the National Records of Scotland (NRS), net migration means there are now 5,424,800 people living in Scotland.

With deaths outnumbering births, population growth has been driven by net migration – but the latest figures suggest the number of people moving to Scotland from abroad since the Brexit vote has reduced.

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The figures, which reflect the situation midway through last year, found that there had been an increase of 20,100 people (0.4 per cent) on the previous year.

Scotland's population has grown by six per cent in the last 20 years. Picture: John Devlin

Since 1997 Scotland’s population has increased by 6 per cent from 5,083,340.

In the year leading up to June 2017, 47,600 more people came to Scotland from the rest of the UK – an increase from 46,300 the year before.

NRS said 32,900 arrived from overseas, a decrease from the 40,400 recorded the previous year.

When the number of people leaving Scotland was factored in, net migration from overseas came to 13,400. While net migration from the rest of the UK was 10,500.

Scotland's population has grown by six per cent in the last 20 years. Picture: John Devlin

Those figures overcame the decrease experienced in “natural change” – the difference between deaths and births. When the number of deaths were subtracted from births, the total came to minus 3,800.

On average, migrants entering Scotland tend to be younger than the general population. In the year to mid-2017, 56 per cent of all in-migrants were aged 16-34 years, compared with 25 per cent of the population as a whole. Of in-migrants from the rest of the UK, 48 per cent were aged 16-34. When it came to in-migrants from overseas, 67 per cent were in aged 16 to 34.

The decline in the number of people coming to Scotland from abroad was mentioned at First Minister’s Questions yesterday when Nicola Sturgeon expressed concerned about the impact of Brexit.

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The First Minister was responding to a question from Colin Beattie, SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, who suggested that leaving the EU could have an impact on the number of working people in Scotland, which, in turn, would impact on the tax-take and public spending.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I share that concern and I think that everyone in Scotland should share that concern. Our population continues to increase and is at a record high, but that growth has been driven by migration.

“The Fraser of Allander institute, too, has highlighted concerns about the impact of Brexit on migration and our long-term growth prospects. It is clear that not only is United Kingdom policy on immigration inhumane, but it is harming Scotland’s economic interests. That is why this parliament has backed our call for new powers so that the Scottish ministers can offer migration routes to people who want to make Scotland their home.”

In a statement released to coincide with the figures, External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop echoed Ms Sturgeon’s concerns.

Ms Hyslop said: “I welcome that Scotland’s population has reached a record high of 5.42 million. These latest statistics show we have met our target of matching average European population growth between 2007 and 2017, which is a significant achievement.

“Migration underpins Scottish population increases, therefore the UK government’s fixation on reducing migration – as illustrated by the shameful treatment that has come to light of the ‘Windrush generation’ – is hugely concerning.

“These harmful anti-immigrant polices run counter to our clear position that Scotland is a welcoming and progressive country, which values the contribution of everyone who choose to make Scotland their home.

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“Falling migration would have a devastating impact on Scottish businesses and communities – with the potential to cost our economy up to £10 billion per year by 2040. What is abundantly clear is that Scotland needs the powers to set a migration policy tailored to our own requirements.”

The greatest increase in population was in Midlothian, which grew by 1.7 per cent, while the greatest population decreases were in Aberdeen City, Inverclyde and Shetland.