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I want to make a bit of progress, if I may, because I have given way several times.
We also need to consider the economic justification of what is being proposed. We are very fortunate in this country that we are able to rely on the independent and impartial advice of the Migration Advisory Committee. The MAC is appointed by fair and open competition, and always issues a call for evidence when conducting its inquiries to ensure that it has the widest range of evidence to draw on. Its recent reports show that Scottish interests were well represented in the evidence that the MAC received, and MAC members visited all parts of the United Kingdom as part of the process of coming to its conclusion. Given that the MAC consults so widely in producing its advice, it is worth reflecting on what it has said. In its report “EEA migration in the UK”, published in September 2018, the MAC said, on regional differentiation in the immigration system, that
“we do not consider that there is sufficient evidence to make such a differentiation on economic grounds.”
In the same report, it went on to say:
“In previous reports the MAC has recommended against introducing more regional variation for a number of reasons. We have considered it desirable to keep the system as simple as possible and the salary thresholds have been set based on national pay distributions and not by the demands of higher wage regions. Similar arguments have been used against regional variation in setting the national minimum wage.”
However, that clear advice from the MAC was not sufficient to end the calls from the Scottish Government for a separate system, so the MAC was obliged to return to the issue again. The most recent MAC report, “A Points- Based System and Salary Thresholds for Immigration”, was published only last month. Again, the MAC’s recommendation was clear:
“We have considered regional salary thresholds and can see the arguments on both sides and on balance, we have concluded that the relevant salary thresholds should apply across the UK. This is in line with previous MAC recommendations but also in line with other bodies such as the Low Pay Commission that has always recommended a UK-wide minimum wage. Although there are some economic arguments for regional variation these are not large enough to justify the added complexity of regional variation in salary thresholds.”