Scots Greys are in full flight to warmer climes

Between the lines by John Blundell

ONE in five of Scots will retire abroad. That seems an astonishing claim. The phenomenon already has a term in estate agency circles - "the silver flight". If the claim is correct, it has vast implications for Scottish business. Many of the effects may be indiscernible now.

If one in five couples, retiring at 60 or 65, flees to sunshine locations, it seems obvious the Scottish property market will have to evolve to accommodate the phenomenon. Yet will people jetting off to Florida or the Canaries sell their homes in Dunblane or Dundee? It seems unlikely they would just leave their primary asset empty. They will either sell up or rent out their homes.

The research was conducted by the Institute for Public Policy Research. They also found what are already the favoured locations for this retiring migration. I was surprised to learn Australia is the most popular destination followed by Canada then the US. America seems to mean mostly Florida, already a retirement state for so many New Englanders.

Spain is the top location for Scots retiring to Europe, followed by Italy and France. The statistics are exhaustive in detail - three Scots have retired to Libya, two to Afghanistan and one to Kazakhstan. Is it possible the figures include immigrants in reality settling back in their homelands ? It does seem that many Pakistanis and West Indians aspire to return to their places or origin, enriched by their time in Scotland and probably carrying UK pension rights which will give them princely incomes compared to those who never worked in Britain.

The phenomenon of emigration from Scotland is nothing new but the texture is quite different. This is no Highland Clearances. This is not destitute Scots migrating to the New World to find employment impossible in Lanarkshire or Fife. Past migrant flows were essentially young people seeking to make their fortunes. The force identified by these researches is affluent retired couples who simply want to escape the raw weather of Scotland and enjoy guaranteed sunshine.

I think it possible technology is at work here too. The internet makes home contact almost instant, constant and intimate. Letters from Tasmania to Tayside can take three weeks. An e-mail arrives in a nanosecond. Satellite TV also keeps us in touch. "Scots Greys", as they are coming to be termed, can tune into BBC Radio Scotland or Reporting Scotland in Fort Lauderdale as easily as Fort William. Indeed there may be a real pang of pleasure at seeing the frost reports and news of traffic snarl-ups while