IS Scotland a racist country? It’s certainly not how we think of ourselves, or the story we like to tell. According to the great music producer Quincy Jones, however, that’s exactly what we are. "Ireland and Scotland are so racist it’s frightening," he said in a recent interview with GQ. When visiting Ireland he likes to stay safely behind the walls of Bono’s castle.

This wasn’t the most extraordinary statement in the interviews Jones has given to mark the approach of his 85th birthday. Not even close to it. There was the revelation that Marlon Brando and Richard Pryor had an affair; that, on meeting John Paul II he took a look at the Pope’s burgundy slippers and said in his hearing, "Oh, my man’s got some pimp shoes on"; that he has 22 younger girlfriends around the world; that Michael Jackson ripped off other people’s songs; that Jones lunched with the Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl who told him that when making Triumph of the Will she used 211 cameras. "I said, 'Why?' She said, 'We were doing a recruitment film for Hitler - think I’m going to tell Hitler, 'One more time, Adolf!'?"

Still, the comment about Scotland took me by surprise. I’ve no doubt this nation, like everywhere else, has its share of racists. I’m sure most if not all of them were among the 38 per cent, or 1,018,322 individuals, who voted for Brexit. I’m also sure that many if not most Scottish Leavers are not racist or – probably a better word - xenophobic. But as we prepare to quit the EU, a decision largely based on a desire to regain control over immigration and other powers currently shared with "foreigners", it’s quite something to be singled out by Quincy.

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To be clear, neither am I saying that a desire to restrict immigration is based on a racist or xenophobic instinct. It’s not unreasonable to believe that free movement across the EU has undermined countries’ ability to manage their populations; it’s natural for some to worry about the impact of low-skilled migrants; it’s understandable that people, particularly the elderly, who live in areas of high immigrant concentration might feel uneasy about how their home town has changed.

Opposition to immigration can be found in every developed country. The pollsters Ipsos conducted a global survey last July that asked participants whether they believed "there are too many immigrants in our country". In Italy, 66 per cent; in Belgium, that supposed hotbed of Europhilia, it was 61 per cent; France, 53 per cent; Germany, 50 per cent; the US, 48 per cent; the UK, 45 per cent. The great movement of people around the planet over the past few decades has been a wonderful thing in many ways for many of us, but it has left large groups disquieted.

In reality, Scotland hasn’t really tried immigration yet. In the UK, most newcomers are attracted to the glamour and possibilities of London, or ready-made communities in the Midlands and the North of England. Most of Scotland’s immigration has come from Pakistan and India and, more recently, Poland, but only around seven per cent of Scots were born outside the UK, compared to 14 per cent across the rest of Britain. In London more than 35 per cent are foreign-born.

Despite this, the best evidence available shows that the Scottish view of immigration isn’t much different from that in England. A poll in 2014 by the Oxford University Migration Observatory found 58 per cent of Scots wanted to see immigrant numbers cut. A separate study by the British Social Attitudes Survey placed the figure at 69 per cent.

So what would happen were we put to the test – were immigration levels to rise sharply in our cities and towns? Would the newcomers be accepted and greeted warmly, or would we see the same tensions that arise elsewhere?

The SNP seems keen to find out. Last week, Nicola Sturgeon’s government produced a discussion paper on the impact Brexit would have on immigration, and argued that Scotland needs much, much more of it in the years ahead. On a personal level, I agree with this. I’d like to see us become much more diverse and multi-cultural that we currently are. But the statistics suggest the nation as a whole doesn’t feel the same. The process would be a bumpy ride that would expose us to some unpleasant home truths.

In the end, though, we may have little choice. It’s projected there will be more Scottish deaths than births in the years ahead – and that for the next 25 years all of our population growth must come from migration. If, post-Brexit, the UK government continues with its oddly arbitrary plan to bring immigrant numbers down to the "tens of thousands", we would have no way of increasing our population beyond some pretty impressive sexual athletics.

Further, the report states that the proportion of pension-age Scots will increase by 25 per cent. Those aged 75 and over will be the fastest-growing group, rising by 79 per cent over the next quarter of a century. In contrast, the working-age population will only grow by around one per cent. Without a shift of pace in immigration, fewer of us will be toiling ever harder to support a soaring number of elderly people.

To this end, there are three proposals in the document that make particular sense. The first is for Holyrood ministers to be given a much enhanced role in deciding the contents of the Scotland Shortage Occupation List, which identifies gaps in the jobs market, and which is currently run by the Home Office.

The second is the reanimation of the Fresh Talent initiative, launched by Jack McConnell in 2005 to encourage international graduates to stay here beyond their studies and find work. The scheme was shut down in 2012 when Whitehall changed the post-study work visa rules.

And the third is for a system that allows immigrants to be granted region-specific entrance to the UK. This would allow Scotland access to the new citizens it needs, both in terms of age profile and skills. The details would have to be worked out – how to ensure immigrants stayed local once they’d arrived, for example. But without something like this the future looks a bit grim.

Is Scotland a racist country? We should surely be given the chance to find out.