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Volume 114: debated on Wednesday 8 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will outline those Government economic policies which are designed to stem the loss of population in Scotland through external migration.

The Government have in place a wide range of economic policies designed to reduce inflation and maintain a vigorous, enterprising economy — [Interruption.]—which offers the best hope of reducing migration from Scotland.

I had some difficulty in hearing that answer, but I suspect that it was not worth very much.

Does the Minister accept the predictions of the Registrar General for Scotland that over the next 50 years the Scottish population will decrease by about half a million, or 10 per cent., because of adverse economic trends? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that is the disastrous result of English government over the years and that Scotland desperately needs new economic policies and a new Government of her own to secure a future for our people?

I would hesitate to lend support to a prediction that goes over the next 50 years. I suspect that over the past year migration has probably been related more to the decline in the oil industry. I hope that the irony of that fact is not lost on the hon. Gentleman or his party.

The communities of Greenock and Port Glasgow are suffering from this external migration. Will the Scottish Office now advise the SDA to increase the funding and staffing of the Inverclyde initiative to stem that migration?

I am keen to see the Inverclyde initiative proceed. I am glad that it has managed to secure some land in that area. Since 1979 overseas migration has been lower than under the previous Government and, over the past three years, considerably lower.

How do the figures for external migration compare with those in the Republic of Ireland, which follows a different set of economic policies? Does my hon. Friend agree that the right kind of policy is to build on the success of the Highlands and Islands Development Board, which, for the first time in more than a century, has secured a stemming of the tide of emigration from at least that part of Scotland?

My hon. Friend is right. The Highlands and rural areas generally are doing well in terms of population trends. To some extent this is a result of the activities of the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the SDA, whose role and budget we have expanded. As for migration within the United Kingdom, I suppose that there might be a possibility of Scots leaving Scotland in the face of Labour's tax-raising assembly, but then they would be driven out of the United Kingdom by the Labour party's United Kingdom tax policies.