TODAY, the Migration Advisory Committee will publish its report on the economic and social impact of Brexit. This is an important report which will help to inform the UK Government’s future migration policy.

And make no mistake, this is a crucial moment – the UK’s decision to leave the EU means migration policies will have to change, so Scotland has an opportunity to influence what those future policies will be and ensure they are suitable for our distinct needs.

I’ve spoken and written many times about migration – and I am well aware that it is not always an easy issue for politicians to discuss. 

I recognise that people have concerns and politicians have a duty to address them – but the medium and long-term interests of the country mean we can’t shy away from debate, even if it makes life uncomfortable for politicians.

In my view, it is deeply unfortunate the issue of migration, and the facts surrounding it, have at times been misrepresented in the media, and by some politicians, in an attempt to drive an argument that it is bad for jobs and bad for the economy.

The issue has become a hot, and often toxic, topic in the UK for the past few years and, in some parts of the UK, it is likely that attitudes to migration were the driving force behind the vote for Brexit – but it’s an issue we must discuss and debate honestly.

The hard and inescapable fact is that, without inward migration, Scotland’s working-age population will decline – the estimated increase in our population over the next 10 years is projected to come entirely from migration.

With our population ageing – thanks to better lifestyles and strong public services – we need more people of working age to pay taxes and help support these public services, and all of the other things we value so greatly.

To achieve this, Scotland relies more heavily than other parts of the UK on migration – we don’t have enough people already here, so we need more to come to live and work here.

The debate has certainly moved on in recent months. As the shambolic Tory UK Government ploughs on towards a hard Brexit their toxic narrative on immigration, and the damage it is doing, is being exposed – the reality is that we are already feeling the impact of their efforts to deter people from coming here.

The stark realities of a Tory Brexit and the consequences of their hostile policies and rhetoric are already being felt – and they will disproportionately affect Scotland.

Applications from nurses and teachers from across the EU are plummeting. The General Teaching Council recently confirmed only 14 people have applied from the EU so far this year.

And it’s not just the professions like teaching and nursing that are affected. In some parts of Scotland, fruit is rotting because there’s nobody to pick it. And for a country that values its food and drink industries so highly, that is hugely damaging.

And what is the Tories’ solution? A pilot for only 2500 people for the whole of the UK when Scotland, alone, requires 4000 seasonal workers annually. No wonder it was rightly criticised by farming organisations for leaving a significant skills gap.

Businesses and public services across Scotland rely on migrant workers to supplement the Scottish workforce. Yet net migration from the EU is almost half what it was before the referendum – and more and more EU citizens are leaving the UK.

So, it has never been more urgent for Scotland to speak up and press the UK Government for a system that meets our needs.

Politicians from across the spectrum, as well as business, third sector groups and communities, must come together to highlight the positive contribution migration has made in Scotland and to encourage more people to live and work in our country.