Devolve some immigration powers to Scotland, say MPs

Written by Nicholas Mairs and Tom Freeman on 30 November 2016 in News

Scottish Affairs Committee recommends more powers over migration for Scotland

The Union flag and the Saltire over Whitehall - credit PA

The UK Government should hand Scotland control of certain migration powers to deal with demographic challenges being faced north of the border, according to Westminster's Scottish Affairs Committee.

The committee, which contains four SNP, four Conservatives and three Labour MPs, has called on ministers to “revisit” the option of handing Holyrood certain powers over migration to stave off the issues presented by an aging population, and to introduce a post-study work scheme.

The report recommends bringing in measures to encourage people from overseas to study and subsequently work in Scotland, with the country’s population growing at a slower rate than the rest of the UK, and the age profile of Scots rising faster.


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Furthermore, despite Scotland’s fertility rate exceeding the European average, at 1.62 children born for every woman, the report says that birth rates alone “cannot provide the population growth that Scotland needs".

MPs say the “dependency ratio” suggests the number of pensions for every working-age person is to rise from 58 in 2014 to 67 by 2039.

The committee also backed a review of Scotland’s funding, to account for the strain health issues and growing life expectancy have on health and social care funding.

Committee chair Pete Wishart said: “If we fail to keep pace with the rest of the UK, there will be an economic cost to Scotland and an impact on our ability to support our social and economic ambitions.

“Witnesses consistently told us that consideration should be given to a sub-national immigration policy to help us grow our population and more must be done to retain migrants to Scotland, attract migrants from within the UK and encourage more young Scots to remain in Scotland.

“Only through the UK and Scottish governments working together, towards the same goals and using the powers that each parliament possesses, can they make an significant impact on demographic trends.”

Scotland's Europe Minister Alasdair Allan welcomed the report and said he will meet the UK Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill next week.

“Our demographic and workforce needs are different to those of the rest of the UK, and with the recent rhetoric of the UK Government as it appears to be moving toward a hard Brexit, I am increasingly concerned its polices will seriously damage Scotland’s population growth," he said.

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