HUMZA Yousaf needs to attract more workers from south of the border to “drive up the talent pool" and boost tax receipts, a former SNP trade minister has said.

Ivan McKee urged the First Minister’s administration to aim a “move to Scotland” message at the other parts of the UK.

“Make moving to Scotland an aspiration for those living south of the border,” he said.

He estimated a 20 per cent rise in the number of working age people moving to Scotland, provided most were higher rate taxpayers, could raise an extra £1billion in five years.

Writing in today’s Herald, the former businessman said one of the biggest challenges facing the Scottish economy was a shortage of labour.

He said trying to tap into the 700,000 people deemed economically inactive in Scotland - students, carers, retirees and the unwell - would not solve that shortage.

Nor would an independent Scotland returning to the EU, where rising living standards and local labour shortages meant there was no longer a ready supply of workers.

“The Eastern European labour pool does not have the same potential it once did to single handedly fill gaps in the Scottish economy, even were all restrictions lifted,” he said.

While within the Union, Scotland’s lack of control over immigration meant the country was severely limited in its ability to attract international workers.

However the rest of the UK represented a “huge labour pool available to Scotland… with no restrictions on its movement or legal ability to work in businesses and public services”.

In recent years the average annual outflow of people from Scotland to England, Wales and Northern Ireland has been around 40,000, but the annual inflow from the rest of the UK to Scotland has been 7,000 higher.

“So Scotland is already an attractive location for working age people from the rest of the UK,” Mr McKee said. 

“Income tax differentials over recent years haven’t impacted the willingness of people to move north. 

“The Scottish Government needs to… focus on clearly articulating the ‘move to Scotland’ message in the rUK market.

"Figure out what works, take concrete action to deliver results, drive up the talent pool and the associated tax receipts.

"Fixing our demographic challenges are in our own hands, and we should take responsibility for delivering on that.”

Mr McKee, the MSP for Glasgow Provan since 2016, was a supporter of former finance secretary Kate Forbes in the recent SNP leadership race.

In his first big Holyrood policy speech as First Minister, Mr Yousaf announced a “reset” with business after relations became strained under Nicola Sturgeon.

Mr McKee suggested this week that the lack of ministers with a business background meant his Government “starts off at a disadvantage”.