Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Migration and Scotland

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:49 pm on 11th February 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 6:49 pm, 11th February 2020

I am afraid I will have to make progress, due to the time and the length of the debate. I also noticed that not many interventions were being taken on the Benches opposite.

Next year, we will be opening the graduate route to allow those who have been here at any skill level to work for two years after completing their studies. Again, we are showing that we are listening, and we are making a difference. I listened to the points made by Angus Brendan MacNeil about the fishing industry, and I know that this is an import issue for Members on the SNP Benches. We will look carefully at the recommendation of an immigration pilot for remote communities, and how that could potentially assist in this area. I would say, however, that I have never considered the vibrant cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh remote, and I do not think anyone else would.

Similarly, as my hon. Friend Andrew Bowie pointed out, we have already taken the decision to increase the seasonal agricultural workers pilot to 10,000—again following feedback about the needs of the Scottish economy. So there are many areas where we are taking on board the views that have been expressed. The best example is where I was on the day the Scottish Government produced their plans—at Glasgow University, talking specifically about the changes to tier 1 to create an uncapped global talent route that will allow universities to put together research teams based not on passports, but on the skills they need to deliver accredited projects. I heard the excitement when they saw the opportunity for Scottish interests and Scottish stakeholders to be at the heart of designing the UK’s immigration policy in a way that assists them. Similarly, we are looking further at how we can work through the tier 4 system with those organisations, particularly universities with a high compliance rate, to make sure it works even better for them.

The key is ensuring that talent across the world sees the great potential of Scotland, as the UK Government do, and that means creating an attractive environment for investment and for working there. The Scottish Government, of course, have power over vast swathes of public life in Scotland—education, healthcare, infrastructure and taxation—and they perhaps may wish to question the impact, in terms of welcoming people, of making Scotland the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom with their policy decisions. The Scottish Government have control of all the necessary levers to encourage investment, to build an educated and skilled workforce, and to secure Scotland’s economic future. With all those tools available, why do they still seek to stoke division? It is because separatism, not Scotland’s future, is their first priority. SNP Members should ask themselves whether the failings in education that Nicola Sturgeon has presided over have anything to do with Scottish companies seeking talent from elsewhere, or whether any number of overseas medical professionals will deal with the issues in the Scottish health service. This Government will create an in-response-to-demand NHS visa system that makes it easy to recruit health workers, but again, that will not necessarily tackle the core issues of the failure of domestic policy set by the Scottish National party.

As pointed out in this debate, immigration has brought a vast wealth of experience, expertise and diversity to the United Kingdom, and we have heard some great examples in this debate of where that has taken place, but that cannot be used as a stopgap or to make up for the failings of nationalist policies elsewhere. Above all, those who choose to come and make their lives in the United Kingdom should be welcomed across all four nations, not used to stoke constitutional grievances or in an attempt to set up a border at Berwick.

The United Kingdom Government have looked at the proposals, which talk of settlement. Is that settlement purely in Scotland or elsewhere? For us, the key is to look at the themes, the needs and the requirements, rather than to just look at how we can break up the United Kingdom. I am clear that there will be challenges to address across our Union, but the idea that we should do that based on the nations of the United Kingdom misses the point. The idea, for example, that Torbay’s economy is instantly comparable to London’s because it happens to be in England, or that the appropriate solution for the Scottish highlands would be to have the same visa as in Edinburgh, misses some of the key ways our economy works. Again, I am conscious that this is something that was decided more by a Government who set up a review to look for their destination of separation, rather than a genuine look at how life patterns work across our United Kingdom.

We are clear that we will listen to feedback. We have written back to the Scottish Government and we will listen to feedback from stakeholders and the Scottish Government about how a future migration system can work. We will look at what their policies would deliver and whether they would deliver success across our United Kingdom. That will be the focus of our policies and plans for taking this forward and making ourselves a nation that prioritises and embraces a bright, optimistic future for Scotland, a place whose natural beauty is second to none. But we will also reject the separatist view of a grievance-based culture of constitutional argument, as I know the House will tonight.

Question put.