A total of 15.7% of the population -- equivalent to some 865,995 people -- are expected to be from outside the group classed as “white British” within 40 years, compared with 4.5% or about 227,889 people in 2001.
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The researchers, from the University of Leeds, said that ethnic minorities would make up one-fifth of the UK population by 2051, an increase from 8% in 2001, and ethnic groups were expected to become significantly less segregated from the rest of the population over the years.
Project leader Professor Philip Rees said it was important that the schools system and maternity services were set up to cope with the projected influx of immigrants.
He said: “We have to be ethnically aware in our school policies. It is a continuation of current trends in terms of the mixture of ethnicity in today’s primary classrooms and that will move on to secondary schools and university.
“We have to make sure that the number of school places needed are available. That has been a bit of a challenge.”
The population of “white others”, which includes people from Europe, America, Canada and Australia, will soar fivefold and 441,271 people are predicted to be in that category by 2051. The proportion of people from mixed heritage of white and black Caribbean, black African or Asian, is also expected to increase significantly.
Rees said the immigration could benefit employers, with a range of languages and cultural knowledge providing further opportunities for Scots business developing new markets abroad.
He added: “If you work in an ethnically diverse community you learn about other people’s cultures and it helps you understand your own. That is very important.”
The research team investigated ethnic population trends at a local scale in the UK and built a computer model to project those trends into the future under a variety of scenarios.
The team found striking differences in the growth rates of the 16 ethnic groups studied. White British and Irish groups are expected to be very slow-growing and together they will account for 85% of the population of Scotland in 2051, compared with 96.5% in 2001, when the last census was carried out.
The researchers said that of the four countries in the UK, England was the one with the most diverse population, while in Scotland the white British group dominated, with small communities of other ethnic groups in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
They used existing data on the 16 ethnic groups recognised in the 2001 census, although in Scotland this only included five groups, along with demographic factors such as immigration, emigration, fertility and mortality to predict changes to the population.
Rees said: “The ethnic make-up of the UK population is evolving significantly. Groups outside the white British majority are increasing in size and share, not just in the areas of initial migration, but throughout the country, and our projections suggest that this trend is set to continue through to 2051.”