WHEN it comes to the UK, the mere mention of migration is enough to ignite passionate discussions.

The topic of migration is often a key junction in any political conversation given its impact on so many different areas – the NHS, Brexiteducation, housing, social care and our communities in general.

Whether in the corridors of power, or in the local pub, there is often much more heat than light, which is why it is so important to outline what the state of play is in Scotland.

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Population growth is key for any country to function. Without it, there is not enough resource or skill to look after an ageing population. The number of people over the age of 65 in Scotland is projected to increase by a third in the next 20 years.

This means Scotland must increase our population in order to cope with the increasing amount of older people and the demand which will be created. For context, the population of the UK is projected to grow by 6.9% by mid-2045. In the same timeframe, Scotland’s population is predicted to increase by just 0.2%.

I mention population trends because the main driver of population growth in the past 20 years has been migration. Worryingly, migration has been the only driver of population growth in the past seven years

 It is therefore fair to assume three things: Brexit has damaged our progress; policies to increase birth rates are not enough; and Scotland in particular needs migration.

Immigration is a reserved matter, meaning that while Scotland cries out for international talent, we are instead left with a Conservative government obsessed with sending that talent on a plane to Rwanda. Even Labour’s proposal to slash net migration by 70% would be utterly devastating for Scotland’s economy.

Organisations across Scotland are unanimous in their agreement that Scotland benefits from people across the world coming to live and work here. The Federation of Small Businesses Scotland, and many others, have called for a system in Scotland which responds to the very particular needs of Scottish industry and demography. The consequences of not having the power to create such a system is having devastating effects for our NHS in particular.

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The Nuffield Trust published research showing that Brexit has led to more than 4000 European doctors choosing not to work in the NHS. The Nursing and Midwifery Council found the UK has 58,000 fewer nurses than if the numbers arriving pre-Brexit had continued. The Royal College of Nursing Scotland has said it couldn’t be clearer that international recruitment must continue for patients to receive safe and effective care.

Dr Donald Macaskill, Scottish Care’s chief executive, said: “Yesterday [January 31, 2023] was a day of shame for the social care sector in Scotland because it was three years since Brexit. We have lost thousands of frontline staff in nursing and in direct social care because of Brexit and an immovable visa system and immigration system from Westminster.”

The ramifications of the immigration policies of post-Brexit Britain run beyond the NHS also. Scotland continues to experience worker shortages in accommodation and food services (48%) and construction (44%). Almost 42% of businesses report that worker shortages are leading to being unable to meet demands.

Arguably the most damaging aspect of post-Brexit Tory Britain is the cultural change. We have endured a government that actively fans the flames of prejudice and ignorance. The UK’s “hostile environment” has normalised inhumane, cruel and racist rhetoric. From this perspective, it is easy to understand why the UK’s unwelcoming attitude would put off anyone considering working here.

I want to live in a Scotland where diversity is celebrated. Where we embrace aspects of all cultures and ensure humane, fair and compassionate migration, refugee and asylum policies. For Scotland, migration makes sense – not only for moral reasons, but logical ones too.