Most Scots want to see immigration cut and believe that Holyrood should be given control over the issue, according to research.
But Scotland has a more open attitude to immigration than people in England and Wales, according to a poll today for Oxford University’s Migration Observatory.
Growing difficulties in recruiting skilled foreigners to work in offshore oil production and IT, as well as a dramatic fall in students attending Scottish universities from the Indian subcontinent, have fuelled recent calls for Holyrood to have greater control over immigration.
The poll finds 58 per cent of Scottish respondents supported reductions to immigration, while only 10 per cent favoured an increase. This compares with 75 per cent support south of the Border for reduced immigration, according to the survey of 2,000 adults conducted by YouGov.
The poll mirrors an ICM survey for The Scotsman which revealed earlier this month that more than half of Scots want to see stricter curbs on immigration, to make it harder for migrants from other European Union nations to come and live in the UK.
The SNP government wants to increase immigration after independence and believes this will be central to driving economic growth as Scotland grapples with the impact of an ageing population.
The poll found that 60 per cent of Scots think Holyrood should control immigration compared with less than a third who think decisions should stay with Westminster.
Migration Observatory director Dr Scott Blinder said: “Scotland’s attitudes toward migration are noticeably different to those in England and Wales, so this research is critical for both the referendum debate and for wider questions about migration policy in Scotland.
“In particular, there is significantly less support in Scotland for reduced immigration than in England and Wales.
“It is important not to exaggerate this, though.
“A majority of Scottish people still want to see immigration levels reduced.
“It is interesting to note that people who intend to vote Yes in the referendum are much less likely to support reduced immigration than those who intend to vote no.”
The report finds there is “complex if not quite contradictory relationship” in Scotland between immigration attitudes and constitutional issues. More people in Scotland think immigration is good for Scotland (41 per cent) than say it is bad (31 per cent).
Scots also rate immigration as less of a concern than those in England and Wales, according to the research.
Scottish external affairs minister Humza Yousaf said: “This confirms that Scots have a different attitude to migration.
“Despite the negative rhetoric from Westminster on the issue, we are less concerned about immigration and more likely to see it as a positive thing.
“It also shows that the people of Scotland agree our immigration policy should be controlled by Holyrood, not Westminster.
“The UK government’s focus on arbitrarily reducing net migration is wrong for Scotland and is harming our economic prospects.
“Independence would deliver the control Scots want to see.
“It would give Scotland the ability to tailor a new approach to migration to address our own specific social, economic, educational and demographic needs - which are distinctly different to the rest of the UK’s.”