Scotland Immigration policy

England Should Learn from Scotland’s Attitude Towards Migrants

The sizeable majority won by the Conservatives in last month’s General Election will result in equally sizeable changes to UK immigration policy.

Whether or not Boris Johnson can in fact ‘Get Brexit Done’ in the manner in which he has promised is up for debate. However, the Conservative manifesto pledges to end free movement, and introduce an ‘Australian-style points-based immigration system’.

The former will inexorably alter our relationship with the rest of the EU- citizens of the bloc will be subject to the same immigration requirements as those from the rest of the world. Despite claims that this will benefit our economy, it will in fact place it under greater strain. Key industries such as construction rely upon workers from Europe in order to fill labour shortages.

Regarding the latter, the introduction of an ‘Australian-style’ system will mean that those from outside of the EU also have different hurdles to clear in order to gain entry to the UK. Such seismic alterations to immigration policy will lead to a marked decrease in migrant inflows.

Whilst the impact of this will be felt throughout the entire UK, it will be particularly acute north of the border. Scotland is demographically unique- its ageing population and low birth rate mean that migration is a crucial way of ensuring population growth and avoiding labour shortages. This has been discussed previously on Immigration News, after Edinburgh-based thinktank the David Hume Institute postulated that control over immigration policy should be devolved to Holyrood. This, it was claimed, would enable Scotland to counteract its dwindling number of working-age inhabitants.

Their recommendations have been taken heed of. Spurred on by the new points-based system proposals, the Scottish Government have stated that any policy changes must be ‘tailored to the needs of Scotland’.

Such seismic alterations to immigration policy will lead to a marked decrease in migrant inflows.

Migration Minister Ben MacPherson has discussed the impact that policy changes will have on both local communities and the economy:

‘Demographic pressures require a different policy response in Scotland to ensure we have an immigration system that enables our economy and our public services to recruit the individuals they need, allows our communities to prosper and is fair and transparent to individuals and employers.’

‘Any move by the UK Government to create an Australian-style points-based immigration system must include a commitment to a tailored approach to migration policy for Scotland.’

Whilst these comments do not directly refer to the need for devolved controls, it is reassuring to see the SNP proclaiming the benefits of migration, particularly at a time when attitudes towards the issue are so complex and divided.

Spurred on by the new points-based system proposals, the Scottish Government have stated that any policy changes must be ‘tailored to the needs of Scotland’.

MacPherson goes on to state that:

‘The impact of Brexit will only exacerbate these challenges as it will be harder for people in the EU to come and work in Scotland.’

Migration Minister Ben MacPherson- Scotland immigration policy
Migration Minister Ben MacPherson [Image: The National]

North of the border, the air is thick with the notion that Scotland should have a relationship with immigration that is totally distinct from Westminster’s approach. As stated, the Conservatives achieved a comprehensive victory in the election. Yet so too did the SNP, and it is only right that they are given the ability to craft immigration policy in line with their own objectives.

 Those in England should take note of the SNP’s openness towards immigration. There is a pragmatism and logic to it that appears to be absent in Westminster, where the attitude towards migrants is ideologically charged.

This translates into huge disparities in the ways that Scotland and England approach migrant-related issues. The SNP have criticised the Conservatives over their massive failure to meet the target set for resettling refugee children.

Despite a commitment to resettle 3000 children by 2020, in September 2019 only 1,712 vulnerable young people had been resettled. In stark contrast, Scotland have resettled 3,240 displaced Syrians since 2014. This means that their target set in accordance with the Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme was met three years ahead of schedule.

SNP MP Stuart McDonald said:

‘Scotland has a long history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers into our communities. Our society has always been enriched by welcoming those in need.’

‘Inclusivity and compassion should be the driving principles of our humanitarian efforts.’

The words used by SNP politicians about immigration evidences the extent to which their approach differs from the Conservative government in Westminster. This is corroborated by the announcement that nearly 150 asylum seekers facing eviction will receive legal and financial support from the Scottish Government.

The news comes after the practice of evicting asylum seekers from their homes was deemed lawful by the Court of Session in Edinburgh. Serco were heavily criticised for their decision to change the locks on properties occupied by asylum seekers who had been denied leave to remain by the Home Office.

In stark contrast, Scotland have resettled 3,240 displaced Syrians since 2014.

Discussing the decision to provide support, Communities Minister Aileen Campbell said:

‘We all have a moral duty to help those most in need, and we want to provide a humanitarian response to the plight of people facing eviction and homelessness.’

There is a level of compassion displayed towards migrants by Holyrood that is not mirrored by Westminster. It is time to take a leaf out of Scotland’s book.

[Header Image: The Independent]

Written by
Cameron Boyle
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