Immigration has been a big part of the Brexit debate and one of the most contentious issues in modern political times. Sir Nicholas Soames made it clear that the matter should be debated robustly and respectfully, and I hope to do that in my remarks. Like many others, I recognise that immigration stirs passions, and that this House must have the courage to confront an issue that vexes not only our country and our constituents, but the United States and many EU and Asian states. Immigration is an important issue for me. I have been lucky enough to live and work on three separate continents and to experience the immigration regimes of the People’s Republic of China, the Kingdom of Thailand and the republic of the United States of America. I have been through their immigration systems and have seen costs and benefits.
The United Kingdom has had a significant amount of immigration over the past two decades. A Migration Advisory Committee report makes it clear that the experience of immigrants and immigration across the United Kingdom has been different, which is reflected in the numbers. England has far more foreign nationals and people born abroad than Scotland—5.5 million versus 358,000, and 16% versus 9%. That shows that the UK as a whole is not the backward, narrow-minded backwater that so many Opposition Members keep trying to suggest, but a booming international country that has welcomed and always will welcome people who want to live and work here.
First, I want to respond to the criticisms made by some Scottish National party Members, because their contributions have been ill-tempered and poorly judged. They talk about the UK and Scotland as though they are one place, but we know that that is not true. Net migration in London was over 88,000 in 2016-17. In Glasgow, it was just over 5,000. In Perth and Kinross, which I share with Pete Wishart, it was 148. In Clackmannanshire, which sits entirely within my constituency, the average was 15 a year between 2004 and 2016.
Secondly, other parts of the UK are not hotbeds of anti-immigrant sentiment. According to the British social attitudes survey in 2016, there was a variation of only five to six percentage points between Scotland, Wales and England in terms of opinions on immigration, and that is with Scotland having experienced immigration in the thousands and England and Wales in the millions.
Thirdly, SNP Members make themselves out to be champions of EU nationals, but in 2014 the then Deputy First Minister, now First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, clearly said that EU nationals would be stripped of their right to remain in Scotland if Scotland separated from the UK and therefore the EU. They were used as a bargaining chip. It was despicable then and it is indefensible by the SNP Members now.