Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has backed proposals for a new Scottish Visa to address depopulation and cut skills gaps in the Western Isles set to be made worse by Brexit.

Under plans announced by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, migrants who want to live in Scotland could choose to apply for a Scottish Visa, or one of the existing immigration routes offered by the UK Government.

All of Scotland's population growth for the next 25 years was projected to come from migration.

However, new UK Government immigration controls and the end of free movement after Brexit are expected to exacerbate the risk of skills gaps and labour shortages in Scotland.

Population projections from the National Records of Scotland show that the Western Isles are expected to lose 15% of their population by 2040 – the highest expected loss of population of any area in Scotland.

Without migration, the Western Isles would suffer an even more severe demographic crisis that could hammer public services like the NHS.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “Brexit, and the end of freedom of movement, poses a huge risk to the islands’ economy and public services.

“With the working age population of the Western Isles set to decrease by 17% over the next decade, it is absolutely vital that we continue to attract people to live and work here. Migrants make hugely valuable contributions to our economy, public services, and communities – and that must continue.

“We can already see the effects of the one-size-fits-all approach by the UK government with their refusal to allow non-EEA works to help fill the crew shortages in the west coast fishing fleet.

“UK government proposals to end freedom of movement and put in place inappropriate salary and skills requirements for all migrants would be disastrous for our economy and society and would risk acute labour shortages across a variety of different sectors.

“These sensible Scottish Government proposals, in line with other regional migration systems such as in Canada and Australia, would give us the ability to create a system tailored to our needs that helped address the skills and recruitment challenges we face.

“If the UK government refuse to deliver that plan it will yet again underline the urgent need for Scotland to take these decisions for ourselves.”