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Migration and Scotland

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:01 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Attorney General) 4:01 pm, 11th February 2020

I beg to move,

That this House
condemns the UK Government’s response to the Scottish Government’s publication of 27 January 2020, Migration: Helping Scotland Prosper, setting out proposals for a Scottish visa scheme within a UK-wide system;
welcomes support for the Scottish Government’s proposals from the business and rural communities in Scotland as well as the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Federation of Small Businesses Scotland and Scottish Council for Development and Industry;
notes Scotland’s unique demographics in that all population growth for the next 25 years is projected to come from migration;
recalls comments from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in June 2016 that Scotland would decide immigration numbers if the UK were to exit the EU;
and calls on the Home Secretary to engage positively with the Scottish Government in relation to these proposals before introducing the Immigration Bill and to devolve powers to the Scottish Parliament to enable a tailored migration policy for Scotland.

It is a pleasure to introduce this significant and serious debate on migration and to support the incredibly reasonable and considered policy proposals recently published by the Scottish Government—proposals that would ensure migration policy worked for every part of the UK but could also be tailored to reflect Scotland’s particular needs and circumstances. Indeed, those two features go together, for it is only by making sure the system is tailored to the different parts of the UK that we actually ensure that it can work for all the different parts of the UK.

From the outset, it is important to emphasise that these proposals have been widely consulted upon and developed collaboratively. The report flags up support for a tailored system from organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the Law Society of Scotland, the David Hume Institute and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Many more names could be added to the list, from the all-party group on social integration to think-tanks such as the Institute for Public Policy Research. A range of academic reports have set out options for differentiation, including Dr Christina Boswell and Dr Sarah Kyambi at the University of Edinburgh and Dr Eve Hepburn for the Scottish Parliament. Lessons from international examples have been learned, from, among others, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Switzerland.

During the Brexit referendum campaign, we were told by the now Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on the matter of future immigration numbers:

“It would be for Scotland to decide because under the proposals that we have put forward we believe that a points based immigration policy…would be the right approach.”

He went on to say that the head of the Leave campaign in Scotland had written to the First Minister explaining how Scotland

“can have a greater degree of control over immigration policy” after Brexit. So I look forward to the support of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

The simple proposal put forward by the Scottish Government is for an additional visa route for people to come to live and work in Scotland. Learning, in particular, from Canada’s provincial nominee programme, it would ideally be for Scottish Ministers to set out criteria and rules for selecting who could get one of those visas. The Scottish Government would then accept and reject applications against those criteria. The application would then transfer to the Home Office, not for reassessing the merits of the application, but to verify identity, check immigration history and satisfy security requirements. The visa granted would include a requirement that the visa holder live in Scotland for its duration. There would ideally be routes to settlement after that, probably at the five-year mark. It is acknowledged that a range of different models would be possible. The details and the numbers involved would be subject to negotiation.