MSPs back bespoke migration policy for Scotland

Written by Tom Freeman on 23 February 2018 in News

Majority of MSPs back a tailored approach to immigration for Scotland in the wake of Brexit

Fiona Hyslop - David Anderson/Holyrood

Scotland should be able to create its own bespoke immigration policy to fit its own needs, according to a majority of MSPs.

The debate followed a Scottish Government discussion paper which claimed UK-wide policy was damaging Scotland's economy because it was preventing essential workers from staying in Scotland.

Labour and the Greens backed a government motion calling for immigration powers to come to Holyrood.

But external affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop also hailed the "common ground" evident in Conservative and the Liberal Democrat amendments, which both recognised the benefits of immigration.

"Like the Liberal Democrats, we think that there are parts of the overall United Kingdom system that have to change, and we set that out in our paper. Like the Conservatives, we understand that any variable migration scheme would need to be developed in partnership with the UK Government," she said.

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: "Although the demographic challenge might well be marginally more acute in Scotland, the issue is, nonetheless, a challenge for the whole UK. Although the potential sectoral employment shortfall in capacity is undeniable, it is undeniable in the same employment sectors across the UK, and the public accepts that."

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: "It depresses me that every time it faces a problem in this chamber, the SNP comes forward with the answer that we need more powers for this Parliament. We need to lead the debate across the UK to tackle the problem across the UK. Cutting ourselves off and looking after our own problems will not solve the wider issues across the UK." 

Speaking after the vote, Hyslop said: “Today’s vote in the Scottish Parliament means there is now cross-party support for Scotland to have migration policy tailor-made for Scotland’s population needs.

“There is a growing consensus, from a wide range of organisations, that Scotland’s unique demographic challenges make it vital for us to have the power to set a policy tailored to our needs. The Scottish Government will continue to work to build on this momentum. 

“Scotland relies more heavily on inward migration for population growth than other parts of the UK - therefore a UK-wide policy to reduce net migration is not in Scotland’s interests. And there is no reason why applying different migration rules to different parts of the UK should be problematic. In fact it has been done before with the Fresh Talent Scheme which operated in Scotland, and there are many international examples in countries like Australia and Canada."

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