NEW SCOTS: Attracting Fresh Talent to meet the Challenge of Growth
The most important thing that any government can do for its people is to act for the long term benefit of all, not to secure short term gain for a few.
The single biggest challenge facing Scotland as we move further into the 21st century is our falling population.
It is at its lowest level since the first half of the 20th century and is projected to fall below the symbolic 5 million in only five years' time.
It is also getting older, with half the population over the age of 39 and the working age population projected to fall by 8 per cent, to below 3 million, by 2027.
In the past, population decline could be blamed on Scots leaving their country to make a new life elsewhere, but that is no longer the case. Net emigration from Scotland is much lower than it was 40 years ago, and even 15 years ago.
Scots want to stay at home, to enjoy all the economic, cultural and social opportunities that 21st-century Scotland has to offer. They are proud of their country and think it is the best place in the world to live and work.
But if we are to make Scotland even better, if we are to compete _ and succeed _ in the global economy, we need a constant flow of fresh talent to flourish alongside our home-grown talent.
A year ago today, I laid down a challenge to Scotland _ the challenge of growth. I set out the economic and social case for increasing Scotland's population through promoting ourselves within the UK's policy of managed migration.
This policy statement describes how Scotland's devolved government will begin to reverse the population decline that threatens our future prosperity, through a modern scheme of managed migration. I am grateful to the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, for his support for these proposals.
I am confident we will now build a national consensus to support our objective of attracting fresh talent, an objective which is in the long-term interest of Scotland.
Across the world, Scots enjoy a reputation for being warm, welcoming, friendly people.
It is now time to extend that traditional Scottish welcome to the new Scots who will help our country grow.
Rt Hon Jack McConnell
25 February 2004