Scotland’s population growth has slowed and net migration decreased over the past two years, according to the latest official estimates published today.
The number of non-British nationals residing north of the Border remains stable but years of continuous growth, caused largely by the expansion of the EU in the mid-2000s, is now coming to an end, a report from the National Records of Scotland noted.
Across the UK, the number of EU nationals has fallen for the first time since official data recording started 15 years ago.
An estimated 3.64 million EU citizens were resident in the country last year. This was a fall of around 173,000 compared to 2017, when the EU national population in the UK was approximately 3.81 million.
The Scottish Government described the slow down as "extremely concerning".
Scotland’s population currently stands at a record high of 5.44 million, but ministers believe the figure could soon drop if immigration is cut post-Brexit.
In 2018, there were 352,000 non-British nationals in Scotland, remaining broadly stable over the past year. Previously, the EU national population north of the Border was growing at a faster rate than the non-EU population.
EU nationals make up 63 per cent of Scotland's non-British population with 221,000 EU nationals living here in 2018.
External affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “This slowing of migration growth in is extremely concerning. All of Scotland’s population growth over the next 25 years – including our working age population - is projected to come from migration, yet these latest population statistics illustrate the significant demographic challenges that we are facing.
“We want Scotland to continue to be a welcoming, internationalist, progressive, diverse country. People from all over the world who choose to settle in Scotland make valuable contributions to our economy, public services and communities. They are vital to the growth of Scotland’s working age population and in turn, our future prosperity.
“Instead, the UK Government is pursuing policies which are projected to reduce net migration to Scotland by between 30-50% over the next two decades, completely disregarding our distinct needs.
“These statistics urgently demonstrate why the Scottish Parliament needs the powers to deliver a tailor made migration policy suited to Scotland's needs."
The Scottish Government has repeatedly demanded in recent years for control of immigration to be handed to Holyrood, arguing that Scotland's ageing population means it is especially reliant upon migration to ensure the demand for labour can be met.
Home secretary Sajid Javid unveiled plans in December to re-shape UK immigration policy after Brexit with the publication of a White Paper.
It includes moving the UK to a single skills-based system and a consultation on a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for skilled migrants seeking five-year visas.
The Scottish Government claimed such a policy would mean that up to 85 per cent of workers looking to move to Scotland would no longer be eligible, with dire consequences for productivity.
Earlier this month the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned that the UK Government’s post-Brexit immigration plans will not work “for any part of the UK” with Scotland likely to be among the worst hit.