Today is designated by the United Nations as ‘World Social Justice Day’ – it is a day dedicated to achieving progress on social justice across the world. Specifically, this year, its theme is ‘Workers on the move’ - it is hoped that it will help facilitate a worldwide discussion on the contribution of migrant workers to the global economy.

Although migration is not an issue which many politicians jump at the opportunity to speak on - I know that only too well - it is nevertheless an issue which must be addressed with urgency and honesty for the sake of Scotland’s economy and our communities.

Historically, down the years, Scotland has been a country of emigration rather than immigration - the people of Scotland have helped to shape nations the world over. We all know of people who left Scotland to seek new opportunities, making their mark on whatever country they came to call home and having an impact everywhere we look - for example, today, there are seven different places called Glasgow in the United States!

However a country cannot export its people in huge numbers for two centuries without experiencing some demographic consequences at home and, without a doubt, it has resulted in distinct challenges for Scotland’s population.

From the 1950s through to the 1990s Scotland experienced population decline.

This situation in the UK as a whole was different - there was almost constant growth in population over this period. In fact, it wasn’t until around 2001 that Scotland saw net in-migration and this was due in large part to the benefits of EU freedom of movement.

As a result of this historical pattern, Scotland’s demographic profile is simply different to the rest of the UK and it is a challenge we will continue to face for many years to come unless something is done about it.

The hard fact - one which it is not always easy for politicians to confront - is that unless we do something about that challenge, our economy will be held back and we will find it more difficult to find the skills that businesses and public services need.

In Scotland our population growth over the next 10 years is projected to come entirely from migration. In every year, deaths are projected to outnumber births, meaning that there will not be natural population growth. Our working age population is currently projected to increase by only 1% over the next 25 years, but the population of over 75s will increase by 80%.

The issue at the heart of it is simple – Scotland needs more working age people to help our economic growth, generate the tax revenues and support the public services so many of us rely on.

Like years before, most migration today is linked to the search for decent work opportunities. We must make Scotland an attractive place to visit, to live, to work and to study, however there is only so much the Scottish Government can do when the Tory UK Government still has control over who can and cannot work and settle here – the Scottish Parliament has no say in this whatsoever.

Although it’s currently a reserved matter, we have shown in the past that it is possible to have Scotland-specific systems - under the Labour/ Liberal Democrat administration at Holyrood, Scotland had the Fresh Talent initiative to help address its population decline and skill shortages.

However in recent years the Tory UK Government’s policies have been criticised across the board for their lack of consideration of the specific circumstances of Scotland, and the need for that to be recognised in the form of a more distinctive tailored Scottish immigration policy. It’s a matter which has consensus not just among political parties at Holyrood and Westminster, but across a diverse range of sectors in Scotland. Organisations such as Universities Scotland and the British Medical Association have expressed concerns about the current system and the UK Government’s policy direction.

To take one as an example, the Tories plans to reduce migration across the whole of the UK to the tens of thousands would be catastrophic to Scotland’s economy. New modelling has shown it could cost Scotland £10 billion per year by 2040 – that is unacceptable and it is avoidable.

Now is the time to explore the devolution of powers on migration in order that we can shape a policy that meets our needs - and the Scottish Government recently published a discussion paper on how a tailored solution for Scotland could operate to help address our specific circumstances. We must ensure that Scotland can continue to attract people from Europe and around the world to live, work, study and invest here and make a long-term contribution to society as members of our communities.

Yes it can be difficult, but well-managed migration contributes to the balance of labour supply and demand, it helps build knowledge and skills and it fosters business innovation.

If we are stuck with UK Government policy on migration it will cost our economy and our society so let’s discuss having a tailored system for Scotland which actually helps to grow our economy.