SCOTLAND has a long history of outward migration. You only need look at a map - and the place names on it - to see the influence of Scots in shaping the world as we know it today.

From Blantyre in Malawi to Nova Scotia in Canada - and the estimated 21 ‘Glasgows’ in America – for decades Scots have left home to build lives and familes elsewhere.

That trend of outward migration is the main reason why Scotland is one of only four countries in Europe whose population actually fell during the final part of the 20th century.

But just as other countries welcomed Scots, in more recent timeswe too have seen many people from all over the world choose to make Scotland their home - and this has had a positive effect on our population.

Thanks to that inward migration, our population is now at a record high.

Many of those who have chosen to build a life in Scotland have come from elsewhere in the European Union, thanks to freedom of movement.

The UK is now - much to my deep regret - no longer a member of the European Union.

As a result, after the transition period ends in December this year, we will all lose the right to live, work and travel freely across the EU. And our neighbours in the EU will lose their right to do the same here.

The demonisation, by some politicians, of migrants and scaremongering about the consequences of freedom of movement is perhaps one of the greatest deceptions of the Brexit debate.

The fact is that halting - or even substantially reducing - EU migration will have a devastating effect on Scotland’s working-age population. In turn, that will hamper the delivery of our public services, the strength of our economy and the diversity of our communities.

Our rural areas and key sectors such as agriculture, health and social care and tourism and hospitality - all of which rely heavily on employing EU citizens - will be worst affected.

Even if migration from the EU is only reduced by half, the working age population in Scotland will decline.

Significantly, that’s not the case for the rest of the UK. Scotland has different demographic needs - and so the end of freedom of movement has the potential to be uniquely harmful to us.

Much of the impact will be determined by the new immigration system the UK Government introduces. It is therefore imperative that we do all we can to ensure the future arrangements benefit Scotland and support our unique circumstances.

This is why last week I published the Scottish Government’s proposals on how the future immigration system can meet our needs, through the introduction of a new Scottish Visa.

Our proposals are specifically designed to work under devolution, as part of a UK-wide system, though it easily could be adapted for an independent Scotland.

The Scottish Visa would be an additional option for people seeking to live in the UK, on top of the routes already available. Successful applicants would be required to live and work in Scotland – as defined under the Scottish tax code – as part of the conditions for the visa.

To administer it, we propose a split between the Scottish and UK Governments. For example, the Scottish Government could define the criteria for the visa, receive applications and then nominate the candidates to the UK Government.

In turn, the UK Government could then verify the identity of applicants and make the relevant security checks before issuing the visa.

This is one proposal in the paper but it, and others we outline, are sensible, workable and should form the basis for serious discussion with the UK Government as it designs the new system.

There are two important points to recognise in considering these proposals.

First, they have been developed following extensive discussion with stakeholders across Scotland.

Organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, the Scottish Trade Union Congress and the Law Society of Scotland, all support a bespoke migration arrangement for Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament has also backed a differentiated solution for Scotland.

Second, regional approaches to migration are not unusual. Canada and Australia both operate such systems – so it’s a widely acknowledged fact that regional visa programmes are perfectly practicable.

Devolving immigration powers is a tried, tested and effective way of enabling devolved governments meet the needs of their communities. Given our distinct needs and differences to the rest of the UK, it makes perfect sense to introduce it here.

The proposals are realistic, deliverable set of measures to address one of the most significant long-term issues that Scotland faces.

To be blunt, it is absolutely essential to have a migration system that actually works for Scotland.

If the UK Government wants to show Scotland we’re a partnership of equals, it must seriously engage with the Scottish Government and stakeholders on this, and show it is willing to develop plans to support Scotland’s needs. If they don’t they will simply continue to demonstrate that it is only with independence that Scotland’s can protect our own vital interests.