THERE is now an “overwhelmingly strong” case for Scotland to have powers to draw up its own policy on migration, according to a Scottish Government minister.

External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop was speaking as a new analysis warned that cutting migration as a result of Brexit could cost Scotland’s economy up to £10 billion a year by 2040.

Scottish Government research said lower migration would reduce real gross domestic product (GDP) by 4.5 per cent here, the equivalent of almost £5bn a year, compared to 3.7 per cent across the rest of the UK.

And if net migration was cut to tens of thousands in line with a UK Government pledge, it could cost Scotland £10bn a year by 2040.

With the number of deaths expected to outweigh births every year until 2040, the paper said action was needed to maintain and grow Scotland’s working age population and meet the needs of rural communities.

“Given the considerable larger negative impact on Scotland’s economy, there is a strong economic case for additional immigration powers in Scotland,” it said.

The paper identified specific differences in the migration needs of Scotland and the UK, including the value of inward migration to rural Scotland, where it helped sustain employment and essential public services in rural communities.

There was also a need for migration routes to Scotland that allowed for and promoted long-term settlement, rather than just short-term work visas, to help support demographic sustainability.

It set out criteria for a Scottish migration system, including a new body to administer migration and powers to make it easier for migrants’ family members, and those of UK citizens, to join them in Scotland.

Hyslop said: “It is clear that the UK Government’s plans to reduce migration would not support Scotland’s economy or our population needs – all of Scotland’s population growth over the next 25 years is projected to come from migration.

“Inward migration does not just bring economic benefits. By welcoming people to live, work and study in Scotland we can strengthen our society and enrich our lives.

“Migrants contribute to our economy by bringing new skills and fresh approaches.

“Without their contribution Scotland’s economic growth will suffer. Scotland’s economy is heavily reliant on inward migration – particularly of workers with the skills we particularly need.

“This paper demonstrates that it simply does not make sense to set arbitrary targets to reduce net migration, or to end free movement of people by leaving the single market.

“There is now an overwhelmingly strong case for Scotland to have the power to tailor its own migration policy to reflect its own unique circumstances.

“Indeed, there is a growing consensus that this is the only logical step in the face of UK Government policy which is determined to restrict the number of people who can choose to make Scotland their home.”

Chai Patel, from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) welcomed the initiative.

He said: “This highlights the extent of Westminster’s failure to create sensible, evidence-based immigration policies that work across the UK.

“Migrants contribute to our economy and public services and instead of valuing that contribution, the UK Government is imposing arbitrary targets that bear no relation to the needs of either the UK, or nations like Scotland.

“We fully support the efforts of the Scottish Government to create a fairer, more humane immigration system, and can only hope that the UK as a whole follows suit.”

The Scottish Greens’ Brexit paper – Preparing for Impact – published last October, included a call for devolution of migration policy, and the party’s external affairs spokesperson, Ross Greer, welcomed the Scottish Government initiative.

Greer added: “Scotland relies on migration far more than the rest of the UK, so keeping these powers reserved to Westminster and under the control of a Tory Government intent on inflicting self-harm to appease its own hard right wing makes little sense.

“It is clearly time for the UK to follow the lead of Canada, Switzerland and others by devolving controls over immigration policy.

“We need to set policies which meet Scotland’s needs and aspirations and that will not happen with immigration controlled from Westminster.”