EU citizens

EU nationals are leaving the UK

In the year ending September 2017 net migration was at a similar level to early 2014 with 244,000 more people coming to the UK than leaving, so still adding to the UK population. This follows record levels of net migration during 2015 and early 2016.

EU net migration has fallen over the last year, as fewer EU citizens are coming to the UK and the number leaving the UK increased. However, there are still more EU citizens coming to the UK than leaving.

The number of EU citizens coming to the UK for work-related reasons has fallen over the last year, in particular, those coming to the UK “looking for work”. Non-EU net migration increased over the last year. This time last year we saw a decrease in the number of non-EU citizens arriving to study, which was not reflected in the most comparable Home Office’s student visa data.

The latest ONS estimate of non-EU citizens arriving to study shows a return to the level before this decrease, therefore any interpretation of this latest increase in non-EU citizens arriving to study should be made with caution. In 2017, the UK granted asylum, alternative forms of protection or resettlement to almost 15,000 individuals, 40% of who were under 18 years of age.

Responding to the latest UK migration statistics, published today by the ONS, External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

“The evidence is clear that the UK Government’s position and policy on migration does not work for Scotland's needs, and that is why this afternoon the Scottish Parliament will debate the need for a tailor-made approach to migration policy in Scotland.

“We need this because the number of deaths is expected to outweigh the number of births for every year over the next 25 years. Scotland relies more heavily on inward migration for population growth than other parts of the UK, and therefore a UK-wide policy to reduce net migration is not in Scotland’s interests.

“The Scottish Government’s discussion paper on migration, published earlier this month, found that lower migration levels have the potential to cause up to £10 billion of damage to Scotland’s economy per year by 2040. The paper set out what a distinct Scottish approach to migration – tailored to our unique needs – could look like.

“There is a growing consensus that this is the right way forward for Scotland, and the Scottish Government is seeking to build on that, starting with today’s debate.”


Over the past decade, Scotland has relied on migration for population growth more than any other constituent country of the UK, with 63% of Scotland's growth due to net international migration – compared to 53% for the UK as a whole. A further 25% of Scotland's growth was due to net migration from the rest of the UK (as shown in Figure 2.1 of the Scottish Government discussion paper on migration).

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