Immigration “is not a dirty word” and should be welcomed to boost the economy and improve the education system, MSPs have said.
Scotland saw a record rise in immigrants last year at a time when the net UK influx fell slightly. The Scottish population is now estimated to be at a historic high of 5,254,800.
First Minister Alex Salmond said Scotland needs to send a substantial message to UK Immigration Minister Damian Green that a crackdown on immigration should not be allowed to harm businesses, investment and education north of the border.
In May, Green said the UK Government’s “tough new rules” have led to a record 62 per cent drop in student visas in the first quarter of 2012 and overall falls in work visas, saying that “the hangover from the old system of weak controls means UK immigration is still too high”.
But MSPs have said the new system is too restrictive and that immigration is not high enough.
Reflecting on the population statistics at First Minister’s Questions, Salmond said: “Population growth was a key priority in Scotland’s performance indicators. The target is to match the average European population growth over the period from 2007 to 2017. These latest statistics indicate that we are on track to substantially reach that target.”
SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick said his city’s life sciences and game sectors [Dundee] often have problems when recruiting specialist staff because of “restrictive UK immigration laws”.
Salmond said a range of industries are finding it difficult to recruit those with key skills, adding: “That is preventing investment in our country at the present moment. I’m assuming that wasn’t the intention of the Home Office in terms of the most recent guidelines and I suspect and believe they should listen.”
19.06.12: Prostitution An attempt to fast-track a law making it an offence to pay for sex was rejected by the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee.
The proposal, by Labour MSP Rhoda Grant, must now go out to consultation, instead of taking a quick route through the Parliament.
Grant argued a previous attempt to pass such a law meant the issues had already been aired.
The committee rejected the MSP’s request, in a vote taken in private.
Grant said that by criminalising those who use prostitutes through her proposed Purchase of Sex Bill, demand for prostitution would be reduced.
A similar proposal in 2010 was opposed by ministers, who feared it would push the sex trade underground.
Critics of such legislation believe that making workers in the sex trade less visible to the authorities would place them in greater danger.
06.06.12: Religious hate crime
Stewart Maxwell (SNP) asked whether the Scottish Government will provide a breakdown of recorded religious hate crimes in 2011-12 expressed as the number of incidents per 1,000 members of each religious affiliation.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill replied: “The Scottish Government will publish, before the end of 2012, the results of further analysis into the nature of Section 74 incidents reported by the police to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in 2011-12.
“This will include analysis of the religions targeted in the incidents, and commentary on the number of incidents proportionate to the size of religious populations in Scotland.”
12.06.12: Corporate manslaughter
Drew Smith (Lab) asked how many prosecutions have taken place in Scotland under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, which is reserved legislation.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill replied: “Since the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force, no prosecutions have taken place in Scotland. The Act has not long been in force and still to be tested in the court. Where there is sufficient credible and reliable evidence to bring such a charge it will be brought.” He said the Health and Safety Division, a specialist division within the Crown Office’s Procurator Fiscal Service, is considering a number of cases under the corporate homicide legislation.
Smith asked whether the Government plans to conduct a review of legislation relating to corporate homicide.
The Justice Secretary said: “The Act has not long been in force and still to be tested in the court. The priority at this time is to ensure the legislation is used effectively and the Scottish Government has no plans to conduct a review. If the legislation were found to be wanting in the future, we would consider what further steps should be taken.” Smith also asked if the Holyrood administration had plans to legislate in relation to corporate homicide.
MacAskill said proposals to legislate on corporate homicide in Scotland have been considered to be outwith the competence of the Scottish Parliament.
He added: “The UK Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, which came into force in April 2008, created a new offence of corporate homicide in Scotland. We consider that this Act sends a robust message to organisations that failures to meet their duty of care to employees and the public will not be tolerated.”