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Migration and Scotland

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 5:41 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury) 5:41 pm, 11th February 2020

My hon. Friend is absolutely right on that. In many ways, his constituency could not be any more different from mine, but the needs are not being catered for by the Home Office in any way.

We have been expecting an announcement from the Government on what the new post-Brexit immigration policy will look like, and there has been a lot of speculation that we will have an Australian-style points-based system. However, there has been no acknowledgement that Australia’s system allows for a degree of autonomy for territories to decide their own criteria on migration, with the ability to adjust their policy to their own diverse needs. There has been no acknowledgement, either, that the Australian system is much more generous than the one we have here just now, or that in her first speech after she demitted office as Prime Minister Mrs May got up and said pretty much to the Home Office, “Good luck. We looked at it.” So I wish the Minister all the best of luck in trying to establish a system that does not have the evidence to back it up.

We on the SNP Benches have long called for a separate immigration policy for Scotland, and we have long been told by the UK Government that that would not work. We do not believe them on that, as on so many other things, because research from the Fraser of Allander Institute and the David Hume Institute has shown not only that it would work but that it is vital if Scotland is to meet the demographic challenges of the future. It is not good enough for the UK Government to take this one-size-fits-all approach when there are pressing concerns in Scotland. If they will not take action to address this issue, perhaps they should allow the people of Scotland to decide for themselves who they want to be in charge.

If you will indulge me and allow it, Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to highlight a couple of cases from my recent casework. The Scottish Government said as part of their Budget last week that they are going to look to set up some means of addressing the issue of “no recourse to public funds”. This relates to what the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean said about people not being allowed to access the benefits system in any way. I had a woman who had been coming to my surgeries for many years. She was No. 3 on my books after the election in 2015. She was working hard in a low-paid role and doing everything that she could but, because she had no recourse to public funds, she was just about managing the rent and her electricity, but she could not buy Christmas presents or school uniforms or put food on the table. That is not fair: she is doing everything that she can, yet because of “no recourse to public funds” she cannot do anything about it. The Home Office is sneaky on this, because every time somebody tries to find a workaround for “no recourse to public funds”, the Home Office promptly shuts it down. The Scottish Government want to help. The Scottish Government do not want people to face destitution. It is immoral and wrong for the UK Home Office to decide that it wants to make people destitute and to make people struggle so hard that they want to leave this country in poverty.

I also wish to mention the case of a particular constituent who came to me. I do not want to mention names because the case is quite sensitive, but this man is a local imam and his wife had complications giving birth, lost 17 litres of blood and was given a transfusion during a horrific ordeal in her pregnancy. They applied for the imam’s mother to come over to support her after the birth, because she was in desperate need and, because of parental leave issues, he had to go back to work. The Home Office refused that reasonable visitor’s visa. There is a lack of compassion that runs through the Home Office and prevents people from getting visitors’ visas on very reasonable grounds. Week in, week out, I see people who are desperate, broken and sad. They are people who want to show off Scotland and their new home. Members have talked about not being welcoming enough; the visitor visa system, which refuses people for no reason whatsoever other than the fact that they come from a country where people are brown, is a system that cannot stand and must stop. [Interruption.] The hon. Member shakes his head; he can come and sit in my surgery. [Interruption.] He is looking about. You know who you are. The Minister, Douglas Ross, shakes his head; he can come and sit in my surgery and he can listen to the people who come to my surgeries from particular countries who get refused visitor visas time and time again.