IT was one of the most scandalously underhand images of the 2016 Brexit referendum.

In June 2016, leading Leave campaigner Nigel Farage stood boldly in front of a giant billboard displaying thousands of immigrants queued at a border under the headline: “Breaking Point.”

What the billboard didn’t tell you was that this photograph was taken at the Croatian-Slovenian border where Syrians were fleeing their war-torn country to take refuge in a safe haven that had nothing to do with the UK.

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This misleading depiction of the immigration crisis in the UK and “let’s take back control of our own borders” mantra, sadly, appeared to resonate with many voters in the referendum – particularly those living in growing populations in England – which ultimately resulted in the vote for Leave.

England does have a higher immigration count than Scotland in general and it also has a burgeoning population.

Scotland’s population, however, is in decline, with more deaths than births expected for each of the next 25 years, according to Scottish Government statistics.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics in 2016 showed that 1.2 million (15 per cent) of London’s eight million population are EU citizens. By contrast, only four people from every 100 living in Scotland come from another EU country.

EU citizens make a valuable contribution to our society. Many work in our schools, hospitals, universities and our agriculture sector depends on migrant labour.

A lot of these sectors simply could not survive without migration and their annual contribution to Scotland is estimated to be £4.42 billion.

This is a significant contribution to our economy and one that is essential when you look at the changing demographic of our country, where people are living longer, fewer are being born and we have decreasing numbers of those of working age. It’s crucial for us to have a healthy working age population to increase production and income through tax.

Current estimates released by the Scottish Centre on European Relations show that the proportion of the population under 16 is smaller (17 per cent) than those aged 65 or over (18 per cent). By 2041 there is predicted to be 10,000 more deaths than births.

The UK Government has plans to lower net migration to “tens of thousands” – this is not only arbitrary, it feeds the negative rhetoric surrounding immigration and will be deeply damaging to the Scottish economy.

The Scottish Government’s impact study – which largely mirrored the UK Government’s leaked analysis – suggests the Tories’ determination to drive down immigration could cost us more than £10bn per year by 2040.

Around 80 per cent of all EU nationals coming to our country are of working age and many make this their home – with the Scottish Government’s statistics showing that seven out of 10 migrants purchase their own home within 10 years of moving here.

In Scotland, we value the contribution migrants make to our country – both financially and culturally.

We recognise how disastrous it could be for our economy to shut the door on them.

But as the Westminster Government continues to ignore our calls for a different system it is becoming increasingly apparent we can’t trust them to do the right thing by Scotland.

Ideally, I believe immigration should be devolved entirely to Scotland but at the very least we need a differentiated approach.

This is not a new idea. In 2005, the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition administration at the Scottish Parliament introduced a Fresh Talent Scheme which allowed overseas graduates to pay back into the economy post-study through a two-year work visa.

The success of this saw it rolled out UK-wide until 2012 before the UK Government withdrew it, instead trialling a new system in England that excluded Scotland completely.

Universities Scotland points out that as a result of the changes the number of Indian students studying in Scotland has fallen by 60 per cent since 2012, while Universities Canada has grown its international student numbers by 32 per cent in the same period in the framework of the country’s differentiated system.

It’s time to reinstate the Fresh Talent system and look at other ways to encourage people to come to work, study and live here. We need people in all areas of our economy – agriculture, health, social care, tourism and education.

There is a strong political will for a differentiated system within the Scottish Parliament as all parties agree that Scotland’s unique demographic circumstances require one.

There are working examples across the world of differentiated immigration systems and this is a debate I will be contributing to at Holyrood today.

From Canada to Australia there are a number of working examples of how different immigration systems work well alongside the national framework.

These were expertly set out in evidence by Dr Eve Hepburn in evidence to the Europe Committee that I sit on at Holyrood. Each system has one aim at its core – attracting the right talent to the right place at the right time. The problem is that right now in Scotland we have no direct ability to do that.

The migration needs of Scotland are different to the rest of the UK as a whole. Only by recognising that the needs of rural Scotland are entirely different to those of inner-city London can we produce an immigration system that works for us all.

Only when the UK Government realises that Scotland is different will we avoid reaching our own “Breaking Point” over migration and the damaging impact the reduction in it will have to our country.

Mairi Gougeon is SNP MSP for Angus North and Mearns.