Scotland is "lagging behind" at taking in asylum seekers and immigrants who could provide a real asset to the economy, a former SNP minister has said. 

Writing exclusively in The Herald, Ivan McKee said immigration will address the "severe" challenge Scotland faces with an aging population. 

And the former business minister called for more homes to be built to back up Scotland's new immigration policy. 

Read more: Ivan McKee: New immigration policy needs backed up with housing strategy

Mr McKee said: "While the number of working age people moving from the rest of the UK to Scotland exceeds the numbers moving in the other direction, the share of overseas immigrants moving to the UK that find their way to Scotland lags behind."

He said the reasons for that are "most likely" connected to immigrants basing themselves close to family and friends down south who they share language, culture, and support networks with. 

The MSP for Glasgow Provan said: "So the parts of the UK with the highest historical immigrant populations will tend to attract, at least initially, more immigrants. As a consequence of this, and an older demographic profile, Scotland’s population challenges are more severe than those across the UK as a whole."

The Herald: Ivan McKee is the former SNP business ministerIvan McKee is the former SNP business minister (Image: PA)

But he said "you need to be careful what you wish for". Mr McKee said a recent policy announcement by the UK Home Office to batch process outstanding asylum claims put this into "sharp focus". 

He said: "The consequences for Scotland’s largest city are that around 2,500 asylum seekers, currently residing in temporary accommodation in Glasgow, paid for by the UK government, will find themselves requiring to be housed, at least initially, by the local authority.

"The temporary accommodation they vacate will then most likely be backfilled by more asylum seekers currently residing south of the border.

"This is a demographic which, while traumatised in many cases, is also typically of working age, and often with underutilised skills and a hunger for success. A real asset to our economy once initial settling-in challenges are overcome. "

Read more: More than 1,000 people in Scotland destitute over UK immigration law

But Mr McKee said "all the immigration policy in the world" won't increase Scotland's population without tackling its housing challenges.

He said: "Were the housing challenge to be successfully addressed there are no shortage of opportunities for Scotland to attract people of all backgrounds from the rest of the UK. 

"We can take steps now to increase Scotland's population and further strengthen our economy in preparation for the full powers of independence."