SCOTLAND is facing a “demographic crisis” that could leave it struggling to pay for public services, the SNP said yesterday, as it called for immigration powers to avert it.

A new analysis by the party said Scotland would have 500,000 extra citizens if it had the population growth of its Nordic neighbours and Ireland.

Scotland is entirely reliant on inward migration to grow its population, leaving it exposed to any post-Brexit decline in numbers.

Its population of over-75s is set to grow by almost 80 per cent in the next 25 years, as the working population grows just 1%.

The SNP compared population forecasts for Scotland with Ireland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland up to 2040.

While Scotland’s population is currently forecast to grow 4.4% by 2040 to 5.7m, it would be more than 6.3m if it matched its neighbours’ average growth rate.

Despite its long history of emigration, Ireland will almost catch up with Scotland by 2040, growing from 4.8m to 5.6m.

Holyrood’s Finance Committee last year warned “demographic divergence” with the rest of the UK could hamper GDP growth in Scotland, and impact on the funding of public services.

SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said: “Scotland urgently needs to grow our population – or we face a demographic timebomb over coming decades that could make it seriously challenging to fund public services like the NHS.

“But the Tories – who created a self-proclaimed ‘hostile environment’ for migrants and now want to throw up more barriers by leaving the EU – are taking entirely the wrong approach.

“It is increasingly obvious that Scotland needs our own powers over migration and the means to grow our population.

Independence will give Scotland the power to take decisions in our own interests – to grow our population, give young people opportunities for a better life and reject the failed approach of the Tories.”