ANY moves by the UK Government to limit immigration could “seriously harm” Scotland’s economy, a Holyrood minister has warned.
Alasdair Allan, the international development minister, said Brexit “will cause immeasurable harm to our country” and further damage could be inflicted by limiting the number of people who can come to the UK.
In its submission to the UK Home Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into immigration policy, the Scottish Government has vowed to oppose any changes to the rules which create barriers for businesses by preventing them from hiring taking on the staff they need.
The number of people living in Scotland is projected to grow by 7% between 2014 and 2039, with 90% of the rise in the next decade expected to come from inward migration.
In a letter to the committee, Mr Allan said a “key priority” in tackling Scotland’s ageing population was attracting working-age migrants to the country.
He said: “That is why we need the UK Government to deliver an immigration system that meets Scotland’s needs - because we depend heavily on new Scots to support our economy and communities.
“However, net migration targets and caps are too blunt an instrument to address the complex needs of our economy.
“The UK Government’s focus on arbitrarily reducing net migration figures, irrespective of the value migrants bring, what skills shortages they could address or what contribution they could make, is wrong for Scotland and is harming our economic prospects.”
He also spoke out on the issue at the Migrant Voice conference in Glasgow, saying: “Scotland has a long history of welcoming people of all nationalities and faiths, and of supporting their integration into the Scottish way of life and recognising the vibrancy they bring to our society and culture.
“Our response to the Home Affairs Select Committee underlines that migration is key to supporting sustainable population growth.
“Any move to limit migration, whether from within or beyond the EU, has the potential to seriously harm our economy.
“There is robust evidence that migrants are not a drain on society and can contribute significantly if they are given the same rights and opportunities as any other citizen.
“Scotland’s 369,000 migrants from outside the UK are mostly young, economically active and highly qualified.”
The UK Government has already rejected a call to consider devolving immigration powers to Scotland and changing visa arrangements to encourage students from other countries to stay on north of the border after graduating.
A Scottish Affairs Committee report recommended UK ministers consider “sub-national migration powers” for Scotland and a tailored post-study work scheme.
The UK Government response, published on Friday, stated it “does not intend to reintroduce a general post-study work scheme for Scotland” and stressed the immigration system is “designed for the whole of the UK” but takes Scotland’s needs into account.