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by Louise Wilson
03 November 2023
Government unveils plans for new visa routes into an independent Scotland

The migration paper is the sixth of the government's independence papers | Alamy Stock Photo

Government unveils plans for new visa routes into an independent Scotland

A new visa route which would allow people to move to Scotland without the need for employer sponsorship has been proposed in the latest Scottish Government paper on independence.

Age, education, skills, earning potential and language ability would be taken into account for visa decisions under this new route.

The paper said the government would "comprehensively reject Westminster’s ‘hostile environment’" approach to migration, instead seeking to introduce a "humane, dignified and principled" system.

It has proposed a ‘Scottish connections’ visa, allowing those who have recently lived in Scotland or those with an ancestral connection to move here.

An employer-sponsored route with still be retained but with “simplified rules” to allow firms to more easily recruit internationally, including for seasonal work.

And the government would seek to remove minimum income requirements for family visas.

Launching the paper, social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Scotland’s population is set to fall, unlike other UK nations, under current constitutional arrangements. This means fewer people working, paying taxes and contributing to public services like the NHS. Yet Scotland is subject to the UK Government’s hostile approach to immigration which is damaging our economy.

“Control of our own migration policy would enable us to replace that approach with a system that has dignity, fairness and respect at its core, recognising above all that this is about individuals and their families.

“It is these values that will determine an independent Scotland’s approach to migration and asylum policy – to benefit our country and the people who would call it home.”

The National Records of Scotland’s latest projections showed Scotland’s population will continue rising until 2033, at which point it will peak and begin falling.

Importantly, the population is ageing – the number of people aged 65-plus is expected to increase by a third over the next two decades, while the working-age population will fall slightly.

The Scottish Government has previously said migration is an important lever for ensuring the working-age population does not fall.

It says the current approach to migration – which is reserved to Westminster – has “ignored and made worse” the predicted population decline.

The migration paper says Scotland will rejoin the European Union and therefore obtain free movement, with the new visa routes for those living outwith Europe.

It also proposes changing the approach to refugees and asylum seekers, including allowing them to work and lifting restrictions on access to social security.

This new paper is the sixth part to the Building a New Scotland series on Scottish independence.

The Scottish Government began publishing these under former first minister Nicola Sturgeon in a bid to promote discussion on what becoming an independent nation could look like.

It is not clear how many papers will ultimately be published but together they will make up a prospectus for Scottish independence.

Other topics covered so far include democratic renewal, the economy, a constitution and citizenship.

Speaking before the migration paper was launched, Scottish Conservative chair Craig Hoy said: “While Scots want and expect ministers to focus on the issues that matter to them, Humza Yousaf is squandering more taxpayers’ money and civil service resources on his independence obsession.

“This is unacceptable – especially when his government is imposing swingeing cuts to key public services.”

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