Devolving immigration and employment law could ‘boost workers’ rights’

Unions have called on workers' rights to be extended when the UK leaves the EU. Picture: PA
Unions have called on workers' rights to be extended when the UK leaves the EU. Picture: PA
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Devolving control of immigration and employment law to the Scottish Parliament could boost workers’ rights post-Brexit, trade union bosses have said.

The STUC and Unison welcomed a report from left-leaning think tank Common Weal which proposed a separate immigration policy for Scotland to meet the country’s demographic challenges as well as calling for “universal rights for all workers”.

The paper argues that freedom of movement should be retained post-Brexit, with existing employment law extended to cover all economic migrants “to create a coherent system for all workers that strengthens labour regulations and rights”.

It follows a similar proposal from IPPR Scotland earlier this month in which the think tank called for the UK Government to consider “fundamental reform” of the immigration system as Britain prepares to exit the European Union.

Scottish ministers have pressed for control over the policy area to be devolved to Holyrood in order to meet the country’s unique demographic challenges.

MSPs have expressed concerned that Brexit, and the end of freedom of movement of EU workers, will have a detrimental impact on the economy.

Official data shows a growing and ageing Scottish population over the next 25 years, with the number of pensioners increasing by 25 per cent and the number of working age people rising by just one per cent.

READ MORE: Scotland facing ageing population timebomb

Commenting on the Common Weal paper, Unison’s head of policy in Scotland Dave Watson said: “Immigration has had a positive impact on the Scottish economy and society, and EU nationals play an important role in delivering public services. The simple fact is you’re more likely to be treated by a migrant than you are to be behind one on an NHS Scotland waiting list.

“Unison has long argued that Scotland’s demographics are not reflected in UK immigration policy and there are devolution models that work elsewhere in the world that should be adopted here.”

Grahame Smith, general secretary of the STUC, said: “We firmly believe in the freedom of movement for people and has been at the forefront of advocating for migrant workers’ rights and protections in Scotland.

“As well as enriching its culture, migration is vital for Scotland’s demographics with many of our workplaces - from fruit picking farms and meat factories, to hospitals and universities - staffed by migrant workers who contribute a great deal to our society, culture, neighbourhoods, and economy.

“The STUC will continue to argue against further restricting freedom of movement as it would seriously hinder Scottish production and growth over the coming years. It is current STUC policy that the UK immigration system should be reformed to allow for discreet migration policies in Scotland. This should be the case irrespective of the final Brexit arrangements.”