Scotland needs the full powers of independence to boost our economy and grow our working age population through retaining skilled graduates, according to the SNP.

This follows reports on Monday that Scotland’s population growth is lagging behind our independent neighbours, and is expected to be 500,000 lower than it would be if we matched trends in Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland.

The Sustainable Growth Commission emphasised the need to retain international students after completion of their studies at Scottish universities. Currently, most non-EU students have to leave within three months of graduation while the status of students from EU countries is uncertain given Brexit – with fears that even fewer skilled graduates will stay and work in Scotland if we leave the EU.

Retaining just 5,000 more international graduates in Scotland per year would deliver an economic boost of £1.5 billion per year within a decade – whilst also plugging skills gaps in key sectors and addressing the productivity challenge in the Scottish economy.

Despite a change to visa requirements being a relatively “quick fix”, there remains “stubborn ideological opposition” to such a move from the Tories at Westminster. The SNP has said that independence would allow such a move from day one – with all of Scotland’s communities benefitting from these common-sense changes.

Commenting, Tom Arthur MSP said:

“Westminster is holding Scotland back – stopping us from retaining talented graduates who want to make Scotland their home and contribute to our society.

“We face a huge demographic challenge and need to grow our working age population to fund our public services.

“And we need more international students to stay here to plug skills gaps in key sectors, to increase productivity and to boost our economy.

“The SNP has repeatedly called for the transfer of these much needed powers, and yet stubborn ideological opposition from the Tories stands in the way of progress – costing Scotland £1.5 billion each year.

“Fundamentally, we want Scotland to be open to the world as a welcoming destination for those who want to live, work and study here. But Brexit, and a new Prime Minister fundamentally opposed to further devolution, could set this ambition back substantially.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that we need the full powers of independence to tailor a system that works in our interests, not against them.”