Leader comment: There are steps we can take now

Nicola Sturgeon, here addressing a meeting of Irish business leaders  in Dublin alongside Ibec CEO Danny McCoy, has asked for Scotland to get separate powers over immigration in any Brexit deal. Picture:  Gary O'Neill/PA Wire

Nicola Sturgeon, here addressing a meeting of Irish business leaders in Dublin alongside Ibec CEO Danny McCoy, has asked for Scotland to get separate powers over immigration in any Brexit deal. Picture: Gary O'Neill/PA Wire

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It has been known for some time that Scotland’s need for immigration was different from other parts of the UK, particularly the south-east of England, but the report from the Scottish affairs committee throws the issue in to sharp relief.

According to the report, migrants make up nine-tenths of Scotland’s population growth, with the majority coming from outside the rest of the UK.

Nicola Sturgeon says to recognise this Scotland must get a say in immigration as part of a Brexit deal. There are some fundamental problems with that though, not least that Theresa May will not want to create the very practical difficulty of keeping control of immigration in to England without a hard border with Scotland. And Mrs May is committed to keeping some control over immigration for England. How a different set of immigration policies in England and Scotland would work is not easy to see.

But as that political can of worms is considered, perhaps the report highlights easier wins to be had for Scotland. Scotland’s position would be helped if there were more attractive job opportunities for young people.

And there are other economic levers that could be pulled. The Scottish Parliament could use its tax powers to make this country far more attractive to people in the rest of the United Kingdom. People usually talk about tax rates going up, but what if they were actually lowered?

And what steps can be taken to attract businesses to Scotland from other parts of the UK? In Scotland we can generally see the benefits of immigration and believe it to be desirable, but until the complexities can be worked out there are other steps we can take.

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