Scotland’s population faces a “demographic time bomb” as birth rates decline and Brexit turns off free movement, Fiona Hyslop says.
A senior SNP government minister, Ms Hyslop raised concern about the long-term problems being stored up for the country, particularly in the Highlands and islands.
Ms Hyslop writes: “We are living longer – which is a positive development – but our birth rate is declining sharply, while events of the past 12 months add a further layer of uncertainty.
“If Scotland is facing a classic demographic time bomb, then Brexit and potentially coronavirus threaten to shorten the fuse.”
Her warning comes before publication of a new report on Monday called A Scotland for the Future.
Unveiled at the Convention of the Highlands and Islands, the report is expected to include calls for tailored migration policies at the Scottish Parliament.
It will also look at ways to create a “sustainable population pattern” with fewer people concentrated around cities.
The region has traditionally suffered from depopulation.”
All of Scotland’s population growth is expected to come from inward migration over the next 20 years, Ms Hyslop claims.
However, the SNP government minister said work in the rural north has already pointed the way.
She added: “The region has traditionally suffered from depopulation but it has also led the way in developing novel solutions, with 70 per cent of people in the Western Isles now living on community-owned land and using the power that provides to drive positive change.”
An expert group reported to the Scottish Government last month with calls for a “visa” to encourage working-age people to move to rural areas.
The UK Government has previously resisted calls for an “economic migration border” between Scotland and the rest of Britain.