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A booming population will have a positive impact on business

Posted: 23rd August 2016

In a report published by the National Records of Scotland, we learn that Scotland’s population has reached its highest ever point. Scotland now has an estimated 5,373,000 inhabitants rising by 25,400 people, or 0.5%, since 2014.

Immigration, which includes people from the rest of the UK, is cited as the largest contributing factor to this growth and exceeds the number of people emigrating from Scotland.

Edinburgh has the highest net migration of any other Scottish city and a higher than Scottish average natural population growth.

This growth will have a huge positive impact on the city’s business community and local economy, bringing increased revenues and skilled workers. With the highest average gross disposable income compared to other major UK cities, this increase in population will benefit the local retail and hospitality sectors as well as the city’s festival economy.

Scotland is a country that undoubtedly becomes more prosperous through the social and economic contributions of immigrants. Yet despite the influx offsetting the exodus of Scottish talent, there is still a risk of excluding some of the world’s brightest minds from contributing to our country.

With internationally renowned academic institutions on our doorstep, Scotland attracts some of the world’s best talent but the ability to retain this is under threat. In 2012, the post-study visa was abolished by Westminster. Now Holyrood is united in reinstating this visa, without which Scotland risks educating, developing and then losing these skilled students. One of the most damning examples of Scottish ‘brain drain’ comes from South Lanarkshire College which saw the number of its international students fall from 150 to one since 2012.

Sustainable economic growth in Scotland relies on three drivers: productivity, participation in the labour market and population growth. Academia is a means to encouraging a highly skilled workforce to stay and contribute to Scotland’s economy but the widening gap between a working age and pension age population must be addressed.

Government statistics estimate the number of people aged 65 and over increasing by 53% between 2014 and 2039. With Scotland entering a significant demographic shift toward an older population, it is critical for economic stability that population growth supports productivity and participation in the labour market.

Edinburgh, however, bucks this trend. The capital has a youthful population comparatively with nearly 20% of the population in their 20s. Edinburgh is therefore poised for a population boom which is to be Scotland’s most noteworthy population development for the next 20 years. Though population growth undoubtedly has social and economic benefits, where drastic population increases are set to occur, the appropriate infrastructures must be anticipated to support this. However, concern over population growth preparedness does not outweigh the overwhelming economic and social benefits brought by population growth. The news from Edinburgh City Council is encouraging and we hope for similar trends to ripple through the rest of Scotland’s cities.

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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