Despite reassurances from UK minister Robin Walker that Scotland would be heard during Brexit discussions, the SNP have insisted that “intransigence and incompetence” over Brexit are the only barrier preventing Scotland having the immigration policy it needs.
Michael Russell, the Scottish Government’s Brexit minister, said contradictory statements by Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, and her ministers on EU migration “only added to the uncertainty that they have created”.
He said: “Day after day, we have senior Tory Cabinet members making statements about Brexit, which completely contradict each other and it is little wonder that, as each day goes by, more and more evidence emerges of the negative effects that Brexit is already having on our economy and our society.”
He added that due to the late time scale on the Migration Advisory Committee[MAC], which is set to conclude in September 2018, “people are quite entitled to question its purpose.”
Mr Russell added: “The only message that business wants to hear is that the Tory Government has listened to their concerns and will soften their extreme Brexit and put jobs and living standards ahead of Tory dogma.”
Labour were also quick to speak out against the MAC review timescale with Yvette Cooper stating she was “flabbergasted” at the time frame for the report.
She said: “Delaying basic research like this, yet still promising it’s all going to be sorted out by March 2019, is completely irresponsible,”
Yesterday, it was announced that free movement of labour would end in March 2019.
Amber Rudd defended the position of the MAC and the policy on immigration stating that a new immigration system would have to be created and involve a “grace period” to allow EU migrants to register to live and work in the UK.
She said: “The MAC have been asked to give us the real evidence about the value of EU migration to the UK because we know it has been hugely valuable and we want to make sure that the changes we put in place are evidence-based,” she explained.
She also spoke of the importance of analysing immigration across the whole county saying that the UK Government wanted to “look across the whole country, different regions, of course to Scotland, and also to different industries, so we make sure when we set our policy it continues to support employment, growth and prosperity”.
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine accused Ms Rudd of being “all over the place” on immigration with her Holyrood colleague, Christina McKelvie adding: “The SNP has long made the case for Scotland to have its own immigration policy to fit our own needs; the overwhelming evidence is that this is necessary, all the more so given the Tories’ utter confusion.
“The only barrier to Scotland having greater say over immigration is intransigence and incompetence from the Home Office and the Prime Minister.”
Open Britain, the campaign that aims to maintain close links with the EU, branded the Conservative Government’s strategy “a shambles” and called for the MAC review to work for the whole of the UK economy.
Last week, the Lords EU committee urged Theresa May’s Government to look at “differentiated arrangements” for Scotland, falling short of full control on immigration.
The UK Government has ruled out devolving power over migration stating that it could cause difficulties for businesses across the UK as well as boost the campaign for independence by creating a separate system.