Westminster report: Scotland-specific immigration system '˜not justified'

Scotland's economic situation does not justify having a 'very different' migration policy to the rest of the UK, according to a UK-government commissioned report.

Scottish Ministers want power over migration, arguing migrants are essential to prevent population decline. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

The Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) study of European Economic Area migration to the UK highlights all devolved administrations want differential immigration but this would be a “political decision”, not economic.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Scottish Ministers want power over migration, arguing migrants are essential to prevent population decline.

The MAC report states: “Although lower migration might lead to population decline, this problem is not something that starts at the Scottish border, some Northern English regions have similar prospects.

“Migration is much less effective at dealing with a rising old age dependency ratio than increases in the pension age.

“Overall, we were not of the view that Scotland’s economic situation is sufficiently different from that of the rest of the UK to justify a very different migration policy.”

The report says there is currently “small difference” is the shortage occupation list which it plans to address in its next report.

Report recommendations include having “no preference” for EU citizens (assuming UK immigration policy is not included in any Brexit deal), scrapping the cap on Tier 2 skilled work visas and having no specific migration route for low-skilled work, with the possible exception of a seasonal agricultural workers scheme.

Scottish Migration Minister Ben Macpherson said: “With all of our population increase to come from migration over the next 25 years, migration is absolutely critical to Scotland’s future prosperity.

“However the MAC report does little to consider Scotland’s needs and instead suggests that increasing the pension age would be a preferential approach to managing demographic change - a completely unsustainable position and one which we and many across Scotland would reject.

“This report will also be deeply disappointing to businesses and employers across Scotland who asked for a simple, low cost approach to migration which took into account the requirements of their sectors.”

He said the reports proposals “completely ignore” sectors such as tourism, agriculture and forestry and “fails to address their major concerns about current and future access to workforce.”

He said there is “overwhelming and growing support” for a differentiated solution for Scotland and the government would continue to press for immigration devolution.

Adam Tomkins, Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman, said: “This independent report clearly states that a separate Scottish immigration system is not necessary for Scotland.

“In addition, the report identifies that Scotland’s demographic needs are similar to the rest of the UK and might not be best solved by immigration alone.

“The SNP’s call for immigration to be devolved is therefore entirely unnecessary and could actually be detrimental.”

He called on the SNP to abandon calls for a separate immigration policy, saying it could require a “border at Berwick”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the immigration debate should be “fought UK-wide” and warned against “cutting ourselves off and looking at this issue in isolation”.