Convention of Scottish Local Authorities president Pat Watters said that local government were the first minister's natural partner in this drive and that he should be congratulated for taking such decisive action to address Scotland's shrinking workforce.
'I hope people get behind this plan and create the consensus the executive are looking for. People have to realise that tackling the skills gap as things currently stand within the country is too much of a long-term issue.
'Local government has a vital role to play here. It is local government that takes the lead in integrating refugees into our communities. Three quarters of the asylum seekers housed by local authorities receive permission to stay as refugees. And half of those refugees are professionally qualified and keen to work. But they and their families need our help in housing, schooling and settling in. We can help make them welcome and help them to work for the benefit of Scotland.'
SCOTLAND SAYS WELCOME TO THE WORLD
The challenge facing Scotland is to counter demographic change and reverse population decline by retaining native Scots and attracting fresh talent from overseas, the parliament was told today.
First minister Jack McConnell said the first priority was to nurture and retain home-grown talent by meeting their hopes and aspirations.
He also wants to encouraging Scots living abroad to come home and attract those who are completely new to Scotland from the rest of the UK, from the EU and further afield.
'It is absolutely in the interest of every Scottish family that we create a country that is dynamic and growing - with opportunities for our children and our grandchildren.
'We need to attract and welcome new people. We need fresh talent.
'A more diverse, more cosmopolitan country is good for Scots. It will open minds and broaden horizons. It will stimulate amibitions and ideas - to travel, to see some of the world. to learn from others. But to come home too.'
Mr McConnell said the policy was based on demographic changes that predicted Scotland's population will fall below the symbolic five million level by 2009.