• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Qualified immigrants are just what Scotland needs

Fears about low-skilled immigrants coming to Scotland and claiming benefits are wide of the mark, according to the latest analysis of the immigrant population.

The figures show immigrants are typically very well educated - much more so than Scots themselves.

Only 22 per cent of white people born in Scotland have a degree, a smaller proportion than for any other ethnic group living here.

Africans are particularly well qualified. Some 55 per cent have a degree or better, while for "other whites" the figure is 50 per cent.

What this shows is that those making their home in Scotland from overseas are bringing with them intellect and skill, which Scotland needs in abundance to tackle the economic challenges of the future, particularly in view of the ageing population.

First Minister Jack McConnell's Fresh Talent initiative, launched in 2004 to give overseas students who wished to stay in Scotland after gaining their degree the right to remain for a further two years, was designed to head off the demographic crisis ahead. At that time, the population of Scotland was heading downwards, towards five million; that decline has now been reversed, thanks to a rising birth rate and immigration particularly from eastern Europe, but the shortage of working-age people in proportion to retired people remains a big problem in the making. Now the SNP's White paper for independence foresees "encouraging more talented people from around the world".

This all makes eminently good sense, politically and economically. It must be said, however, that being qualified to the hilt does not guarantee immigrants highly-skilled employment. It is not unusual for highly qualified immigrants, like highly qualified indigenous Scots, to be found waiting tables and serving in bars. Efforts must be made to ensure Scottish employers are able to harness the skills immigrants have to offer, especially given that low awareness about Fresh Talent among employers was a weakness of the system.

Britain does well among developed nations in attracting well-qualified immigrants, and universities are good at attracting overseas students who appreciate the value of a good education. Long may it continue.

Today's report does not tell a bad story about Scotland's attainment levels either. That figure of 22 per cent, for Scots with a degree, is in fact high. Immigrants are, after all, a self-selecting group. Talented self-starters have always been the ones to migrate to pastures new in search of a better life. A fairer comparison would be between qualification levels of the Scottish population and those of other countries: that shows Scotland to be well educated by international standards. Efforts to upskill young people appear to be working, with only eight per cent of 16 to 34-year-olds having no qualifications, vastly fewer than their grandparents' generation, but with college funding having sustained huge cuts, ongoing efforts must be made to ensure those from deprived backgrounds, in particular, do not get left behind.

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

249761