SCOTLAND is to lose nearly a million people over the coming decades according to the Scottish Fiscal Commission. That’s 16% of the population, far more than was lost during the Highland Clearances. This is a demographic catastrophe.

And not just because it will depress economic growth over the next 50 years to less than one per cent per annum according to the SFC, a Scottish Government think tank. Do we want Scotland to turn into an old people’s home? A country with nothing to offer the world except whisky and empty glens? No country for grumpy old men?

Environmentalists may celebrate the “rewilding” of Scotland, but depopulation is not in the SNP’s interests. Such long-term decline makes independence an even more difficult project. All those elderly Scots on pensions are unlikely to vote for a party that has no plans to fund them.

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, was shot down in flames two months ago when he claimed that the UK would pay Scottish pensions after independence. Oh no we won’t, came the chorus from Westminster. Nicola Sturgeon was forced to accept that Scotland might be on its own pensions-wise.

Funding this gerontocracy, along with elderly care, means that an independent Scotland would have colossal overheads. You can’t pay for an economically unproductive population with endless borrowing based a depreciated Scottish pound

Population loss is down to our low birth rate and low immigration compared to England. Oddly, the Scottish Government has stopped blaming Brexit for our relative lack of migrants. Ms Sturgeon used to say that ending free movement would stop people coming here to work and help pay, though their taxes, for Scotland’s dependent population.

Well, the reason is that despite what they think on Twitter, Britain is experiencing an immigration boom right now. Migration, especially from non-EU countries like India, has increased, not decreased, since Brexit. A record one million work and study visas were granted last year, 80 per cent more than in 2019. Some are students who will return home. But around half, 450,000, will remain here permanently. On top of six million EU citizens –- twice as many as were thought to be living here.

Ms Sturgeon’s problem is not the lack of immigration but lack of migration to SNP Scotland. You might ask: why would anyone come here right now? Higher taxes, fewer well-paid jobs, creaking public services, declining educational standards…weather.

Perhaps if Scotland were independent things might change. Self-government often galvanises free nations into feats of economic boot-strapping – look at the success of Slovakia and Slovenia. But it requires heroic optimism given Scotland's eight per cent structural deficit. And the fact that the SNP seems to have no industrial policy other than nationalising basket cases like Prestwick and Ferguson Marine.

Scotland has lived on hand-outs for so long we’ve lost the will to run a productive economy. And migrants aren’t coming to our rescue.

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