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Only co-operation between Governments can solve Scotland's demographic problems

30 November 2016

The Scottish Affairs Committee has called on the UK and Scottish Governments to continue to work together to tackle Scotland's demographic challenges.

Report findings

The report highlights a number of challenges due to the makeup of Scotland's population, including the aging population and Scotland's lower life expectancy.

Population growing slower than UK rate

After decades of decline Scotland's population is now growing but at a slower rate than the UK as a whole due to a lower fertility rate, lower levels of inward migration and continuing emigration out of Scotland.

This report looks at the current trends in Scotland's population and the critical issues of the shape of the nation's demography.

We look at the challenges presented by Scotland's dependency ratio and the economic and social impact of a slower increase in Scotland's population in relation to the UK as a whole. 

More could be done to attract skilled workers to Scotland

The report highlights that more could be done to attract skilled workers to Scotland and encourage people from overseas and elsewhere in the UK who study in Scotland to stay here and use their skills.

Throughout our inquiry many witnesses expressed support for examining sub-national migration powers for Scotland and support for a post study work scheme.

This is an area the Committee has looked at before and we hope the UK Government will be willing to revisit it. We note the pilot that the UK Government is currently running and look forward to seeing the results of this scheme.

Funding considerations must take into account factors not just population size

We look at Scotland's funding arrangements and examine its effectiveness in taking into account of the changing nature of the population.

Like most of the developed world Scotland's population is ageing and we examine the health issues many face in later life and the strain this puts on health and social care funding.

Consideration should be given to how funding could take into account not just population size but other factors such as life expectancy and healthy life expectancy.

Chair's comments

On publishing the report, Committee Chair Pete Wishart commented:

"Where it is encouraging that Scotland's population is at its highest ever level, Scotland's predicted population growth still falls behind the rest of the UK. We conclude that a growing population in Scotland is to be welcomed and is necessary for the success of the Scottish economy. If we fail to keep pace with the rest of the UK there will be an economic cost to Scotland and an impact on our ability to support our social and economic ambitions. Our dependency ratio and life expectancy inequalities have also been identified as features in our report and we ask both Governments to put in places measures that will help address those.

Witnesses consistently told us that consideration should be given to a subnational immigration policy to help us grow our population and more must be done to retain migrants to Scotland, attract migrants from within the UK and encourage more young Scots to remain in Scotland.

Our report also highlights the importance in understanding regional variations within Scotland. Significant population decline is still a worry for parts of rural Scotland. We must work to encourage business to set up in rural areas of Scotland and attract young talented people to those communities.

In all Scotland is on course to meeting the average population growth of the EU 15 and closing its dependency ratio with the rest of the UK by 2029. However if we don't address our relative population growth there could well be an economic impact for Scotland.

Only through the UK and Scottish Governments working together, towards the same goals and using the powers that each Parliament possess, can they make an significant impact on demographic trends."

Further information

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