The Scottish Government has published a new plan for a Scottish immigration system that protects our public services and economy.
Our plan sets out why a different approach is needed; how the UK government can address the challenges Scotland faces now; and how we can get on with building an immigration system that works for Scotland.
It is clear that Scotland needs a tailored approach to migration, one that is made in Scotland and is accountable to the people who live here.
Here’s what you need to know.
Why do we need a different approach?
Scotland’s population is aging. Over the next 25 years the number of people over 75 in Scotland will increase by 80 per cent. That’s a good thing, but it also means there will be more demand on our NHS, with less people in work to support public services through taxes.
Over the last few years the working age population of Scotland has gone up – meaning more people paying taxes – partly thanks to the contribution of workers from the rest of Europe. In fact, each additional worker from the rest of the EU contributes £34,400 to our economy.
Brexit could now reverse the increase in our working age population. So far, the Tory government has prioritised reducing immigration over protecting our economy. Their plan would mean attracting less people to come here to pay taxes and support local economies. Scottish Government analysis show the impact of this on Scotland’s economy would be worse than in the rest of the UK.
What changes could be made to the UK immigration system now?
The UK government is obsessed with an arbitrary target of reducing net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’. We’d rather they scrapped the target and did what was right for Scotland’s public services and economy.
To attract the people Scotland needs, we think the Scottish Government should have a role in deciding the ‘shortage occupation list’ – the list of occupations which have difficulties in finding suitable candidates in the UK.
The post-study work visa should be reintroduced in Scotland – as recommended by the Smith Commission and supported by all parties at Holyrood. This would allow students who have came to Scotland to study to stay and contribute to our economy.
We also want the UK government to scrap the charge on companies employing workers from outside Europe, which is having a detrimental impact on vital Scottish sectors like food processing, tourism and the creative industries.
And for those that have already chosen to make Scotland their home, we want a more compassionate approach to family migration.
How can we build a Scottish immigration system?
Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit, we all know that. But if the UK is to leave Europe, we want the best deal for Scotland. To do so, we think the UK should work for a Norway-style deal that protects jobs by keeping us in the Single Market. That would protect Scotland’s ability to attract talented workers and Scottish citizens ability to work across Europe.
But, so far, the UK government seems determined to get a bad deal or no deal at all. If that happens the Scottish Parliament must get additional powers to protect our economy.
Countries like Canada and Australia already allow different parts of the country to vary some immigration rules according to their needs. With additional powers over immigration Scotland could create new immigration rules that meet the most pressing needs of our economy.
We think that the Scottish Government, elected by people in Scotland and accountable to the Scottish Parliament, is best placed to make decisions about migration in Scotland.