FOR decades, many Scots headed south – leaving the land of their birth to pursue opportunities in London and elsewhere across England.

But the longstanding trend may now be reversing, according to a major new report. The study by the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on Migration and Population found that, since mid-2001, people coming to Scotland from other parts of the UK had helped boost the country’s population by 137,000.

This contrasts with the situation over the previous five decades, when more Scots left the country for other areas of Britain than came to live here from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The report found that “between 1951- 52 and 2000-01, 399,000 more people left Scotland for other parts of the UK than moved to Scotland from rUK (the rest of the UK)”.

It stated that Scotland had “changed from being a nation that typically experienced a net outflow of population to one where migration had a positive effect on population growth”.

But the same report warned of a possible divide between Scotland’s cities – which tend to attract more people – and the “wide hinterland” outside them.

The EAG said that, as migrants are often young and “to some extent better educated”, this tends to produce a “very significant movement of young people to Scotland’s major cities, which offer a wide range of higher education opportunities”.

These places could benefit from this “economic dynamism”, the report said. But it added that the situation was in contrast to “those ‘left-behind’ areas (which) have a much older population, higher demand for public services, and a lack of well-qualified young people”.

The EAG said: “This raises a fundamental question about the allocation of public resources between, on the one hand, Scotland’s large cities which appear to be the likely engines of future economic growth; and, on the other, the wide hinterland where demographic forces and the present configuration of higher education institutions is leading to an ageing population increasingly dependent on public service support.”

Publication of the report comes amid concern over the impact of Brexit on Scotland’s demographics, which have received a further boost in recent years thanks to migration from EU member states.

Last month, it emerged that more than 190,000 people had applied to stay in Scotland after the Brexit transition period ends.

The majority of applications for EU settled status to the Home Office have come from Polish, Romanian and Italian citizens, with Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen are the most popular locations.

According to the Home office, 67,170 Polish nationals have applied for the scheme, followed by 14,020 Romanians and 13,910 Italians. Just 90 nationals from Luxembourg, 150 from Iceland and 250 from Slovenia have applied for the status north of the Border.

So far, 61 per cent of completed applications have been granted settled status, with 38% given pre-settled status.

The largest number of applications were from people living in Edinburgh (44,740), followed by 31,230 in Glasgow.

Commenting yesterday, Scotland’s Migration Minister, Ben Macpherson, welcomed the EAG report, but accepted that Scotland still faces “significant population challenges” from the falling birth rate and the UK’s exit from the European Union.

He said: “This independent report highlights that more people are moving to Scotland from the rest of the UK than are going in the other direction. That is welcome news.

“But we still face significant population challenges set against a backdrop of a record fall in the birth rate.

“All of Scotland’s population growth over the next 25 years is projected to come from migration. If EU migration in Scotland falls to half current levels then our working age population would decline by 1% and the proportion of children by 4.5%.”

Mr Macpherson added: “As well as continuing to use our devolved powers to attract more people from the rest of the UK and beyond, increasingly we require new powers and initiatives to enable the Scottish Government to deliver tailor-made policies and solutions, to meet Scotland’s needs.”