TOP scientists, researchers and mathematicians will be given fast-tracked entry to the UK from next month, Boris Johnson announced today.

The move from the Prime Minister comes as Nicola Sturgeon is due in Edinburgh this morning to unveil her policy plan for a new Scottish Visa, which is aimed at addressing Scotland’s challenges of depopulation and skills gaps.

In his announcement, Mr Johnson said he wanted to send a message that Britain was open to the "most talented minds in the world" as the country left the EU.

The "Global Talent" visa route - to be opened on February 20 - would not be capped; it would replace the current Tier 1 exceptional talent route.

"The UK has a proud history of scientific discovery but to lead the field and face the challenges of the future we need to continue to invest in talent and cutting-edge research.

"That is why as we leave the EU I want to send a message that the UK is open to the most talented minds in the world, and stands ready to support them to turn their ideas into reality," declared the PM.

The scheme, managed by the UK Research and Innovation organisation which will endorse applicants, will enable UK-based research projects that have received recognised prestigious grants and awards to recruit global talent.

Applicants will not need a job offer before arriving in Britain under the visa and it will provide an accelerated path to settlement for all endorsed scientists and researchers.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, explained: "The UK is a world leader in science with research and innovation that changes lives being undertaken every day in this country.

"To keep the UK at the forefront of innovation, we are taking decisive action to maximise the number of individuals using the Global Talent route including world-class scientists and top researchers who can benefit from fast-tracked entry into the UK."

The UK Government also announced £300 million to fund experimental and imaginative mathematical sciences research over the next five years.

It will double funding for new PhDs and boost the number of maths fellowships and research projects.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, UK Research and Innovation’s Chief Executive, added: "Working with the Government, UK Research and Innovation is ensuring that the UK remains a globally leading environment for research and innovation.

"Our ambition is clear, to create a stronger research and innovation environment that is focused on supporting talented people and realising the full potential of their work."

But Christine Jardine for the Liberal Democrats dismissed the Government announcement as “nothing more than a marketing gimmick”

The Edinburgh MP said: “Boris Johnson is showing he fundamentally doesn’t understand what makes our science sector so successful. Changing the name of a visa and removing a cap that’s never been hit is not a serious plan.

“Science relies on thousands of researchers and this announcement does nothing for the vast majority of them. If the Government is serious about championing UK science, it must prioritise continued mobility as part of our future relationship with the EU,” she added.

Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon’s proposal for a new Scottish Visa comes amid suggestions all of Scotland's population growth for the next 20 years will come from migration, which is in contrast to the rest of the UK.

The FM and her colleagues fear that new UK Government immigration controls and the end of free movement after Brexit will exacerbate the risk of skills gaps and future labour shortages in Scotland.

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “We believe Brexit can be a success for Scotland and both governments in Westminster and Holyrood should be working flat out to ensure it is.

“We’re willing to look at any proposal which helps Scotland prosper in this new era. It’s essential the SNP Government’s motives for this are to make Brexit work, not to stoke up division and agitate for independence.”