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Boosting population is core plan

Commission backs incentives to lure immigrants


Luring overseas workers will help growth says the Commission (photo by Terry Murden)


A package of incentives enticing foreigners to live, study and work in Scotland will be key to boosting growth in an independent Scotland, says the SNP’s Growth Commission.

A  policy of encouraging more incomers is being proposed as an antidote to the UK government’s restrictions on migrant labour.

It is a core recommendation in the Commission’s report which is published today and is also expected to recommend that Scotland remains tied to sterling rather than adopt its own currency.

It says demographic trends mean that the need to boost population is more pressing for Scotland than for the rest of the UK – something that it says is made even more urgent by Brexit “and the danger it poses when it comes to attracting skilled workers”.

A “Come to Scotland” package would be specifically geared to increase the inflow of investors, entrepreneurs, highly-skilled workers and students.

The Commission says it would add significant value on top of the net fiscal contribution of £1.3 billion that the 429,000 residents of Scotland, born outside of the UK, already make to Scotland’s economy. \

It says policies to boost the population should also focus on returning Scots and people from the rest of the UK who wish to bring their skills and talents to Scotland.

The package is central to the first of “3 Ps” which underpin the Sustainable Growth Commission’s report – population, participation and productivity – and its recommendations to raise the potential and performance of the Scottish economy.

The proposals include:

– Exploring “transition relief” for highly skilled migrant workers to offset defined costs associated with moving to Scotland against income tax, to attract the best and brightest talent.

– Aiming to retain an additional 5,000 international graduates each year to deliver an economic boost of £1.5 billion per year within a decade.

– Reducing costs, lowering investment thresholds and increasing support for entrepreneurs.

– A new visa system benchmarked on the most efficient and easy to use in the world.

Commission chairman Andrew Wilson said: “We have a great opportunity for Scotland to strike a completely different tone on a vitally important area of economic policy – how we attract talent to our country.

“For the next 25 years all of Scotland’s projected population growth is expected to come from migration. Under current UK policy there is a real danger that the working population in Scotland could fall – meaning fewer people creating wealth, jobs and contributing to our NHS.

“Growing our working population and, through it, our economy is perhaps the greatest national challenge we have – and is made even more urgent by Brexit and the threat it poses to our working age population. Scotland needs more migration to drive our economy forwards and we need to extend a friendly welcome to international talent.

“It is a fact that those born outside the UK who have made Scotland home for their businesses, their research or their families are significant net contributors to our economy and public finances – we need more of this.

“We also need more people from across the UK to consider the benefits of living and working here.

“Our package is designed to attract people to Scotland to study and to stay here, to build a career, and a fulfilling future for themselves. We need investors, entrepreneurs and a skilled workforce to achieve our potential.

“It is in Scotland’s best interests to grow our population sustainably, but we need the right powers and policies in place to allow that to happen.

“There is a real opportunity to build consensus across the political divide and Scottish society more widely in support of policies that actively support migration into Scotland.

“All parties need to recognise that and to act in the best interests of Scotland’s economy and our society. The importance of this cannot be overstated.”

See also:

Growth Commission full report: Call for Central Bank, financial regulation

Comment: Brian Monteith

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