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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 have not destroyed my own argument, because the parallel is with Ireland. The in-country checks would take place in those parts of United Kingdom where people are not entitled to live and work. It is often said that that would be a back door to working in other parts of the UK, but the checks exist there. If somebody with a Scottish visa applies for a job in London, they will be turned down because there are sanctions for employers who break the rules and for the people who actually do that. It works perfectly well. Nobody suggests that we need to take any action in relation to the people coming in via Ireland, and it would be exactly the same for the far smaller number of people using the Scottish visa.

It is not just Ireland that we are talking about: our friends in the Isle of Man get to issue their own visas and yet the UK is happy to operate a common travel area with them. If the Isle of Man can do that, why not Scotland?

The Lib Dem amendment has not been selected, but I will address it. There is little in its critique of the UK immigration system that I could possibly quibble with, and it is consistent with the principles of dignity, fairness and respect that the Scottish Government’s paper refers to. The amendment also reiterates the party’s call to end limitless immigration detention and to close Dungavel detention centre. My party and I have been making those points for years on end, and we did so in one of our most recent Opposition day debates last summer. Indeed, my party was making those points even while some Lib Dems were part of the coalition Government delivering aspects of the hostile environment that they now condemn. As their amendment states, I want a fair, effective immigration system for the whole of the UK, but again there is absolutely no reason why that cannot incorporate tailored approaches for the different parts of the UK. I urge hon. Members to engage positively on the issues. Their amendment should have added to our motion, not attempted to replace its substance.

The case for a devolved, or at least a tailored, system for Scotland is powerful and verging on the unanswerable. We are at a pivotal moment for migration policy and for Scotland’s population. The overarching objective of UK Government policy is to reduce migration. Nobody in this Chamber can seriously dispute that such a policy goal is wholly inappropriate for Scotland. The Scottish Government, after extensive consultation with stakeholders, have put forward serious but reasonable proposals for a Scottish visa based on a wealth of research and international experience. I urge Ministers and Members across the House to engage seriously with the proposals, because failing to do so risks drastic consequences for Scotland. If that engagement does not happen, if those proposals are not taken seriously and nothing is done to avoid those drastic consequences, more and more people will consider the other way to avoid those drastic consequences. That is, of course, to push through our own independent migration policy, just like Ireland does, as an independent country.