MSPs have backed calls for a differentiated and flexible immigration system for Scotland.
Scottish ministers have pressed for control over the policy area to be devolved to Holyrood in order to meet the country’s unique demographic challenges.
They are concerned that Brexit, and the end of freedom of movement of EU workers, will have a detrimental impact on the economy.
Official data shows a growing and ageing Scottish population over the next 25 years, with the number of pensioners increasing by 25% and the number of working age people rising by 1%.
Meanwhile, Scottish Government analysis indicates EU nationals working in Scotland contribute an average of £34,400 per year to GDP.
Speaking during a debate on the issue, Europe Minister Alasdair Allan said: “Scotland’s demographic profile is simply different to the rest of the UK.
“In Scotland our population growth over the next 10 years is expected to come entirely – 100% – from migration.
“This is a very significant divergence from the rest of the UK, and it is a divergence that we as a Parliament must address.”
He added: “It is simply impossible to overstate the critical role of migration in Scotland’s future growth and prosperity.”
Scottish Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw acknowledged “a significant increase in the working age population” was needed, however he said his party was not persuaded of the need for a bespoke migration system for Scotland, separate from the rest of the UK.
He called for the Scottish Government to work with UK ministers to achieve a “migration policy that will meet our economic sectoral needs across the UK and preserve access to the most important UK single market”.
Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said: “Brexit means that we need new answers to range of questions facing Scotland today, including a new approach to immigration that reflects the different needs and priorities of the nations and regions of the UK.
“Addressing Scotland’s migration needs can indeed be done within the context of the United Kingdom without undermining either the UK single market or indeed a coherent UK immigration policy.”