Holyrood to debate Scotland's 'unique' migration needs

Fiona Hyslop to lead calls for an “evidence-based” case for Scotland gaining “appropriate powers” over migration

A SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT DEBATE on Scotland’s migration policy and population needs will address the possible devolution of immigration today (February 22).

Prompted by the publication earlier this month of the Scottish Government paper Scotland’s Population Needs and Migration Policy: Discussion Paper on Evidence, Policy and Powers for the Scottish Parliament, the debate will seek recognition from parliament for the need for a differentiated solution for migration policy in Scotland, due to Scotland’s “unique” circumstances and needs.

It is likely that a strong component of the debate will be arguments for and against the devolution of immigration from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament, which formed a central argument of the Scottish Government’s recent paper and has been called for in numerous quarters, particularly since the advent of the 2016 EU referendum.

READ MORE: Scottish Government sets out “overwhelming” case for delvolved immigration powers

Upon the publication of its migration policy paper, External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “In the absence of clarity from the UK Government on what migration policy will be post-Brexit, this paper looks in some detail at Scotland’s population needs and how they can be achieved.

“It is clear that the UK Government’s plans to reduce migration would not support Scotland’s economy or our population needs – all of Scotland’s population growth over the next 25 years is projected to come from migration. So this paper sets out what a devolved migration system could look like, and the principles we would follow.

Hyslop continued: “There is now an overwhelmingly strong case for Scotland to have the power to tailor its own migration policy to reflect its own unique circumstances. Indeed, there is a growing consensus that this is the only logical step in the face of UK Government policy which is determined to restrict the number of people who can choose to make Scotland their home.”

READ MORE: Scottish Greens say immigration must be devolved to protect migrant rights post-EU

Calls for immigration policy to be devolved were also articulated in October of 2014 by the Scottish Greens in their position paper ‘Bracing for Impact’, which argued for the devolution of relevant powers – including asylum policy - to protect migrant rights post-Brexit.

The Green paper argued that EU citizens in the UK on the final date of Brexit coming into force should be allowed to remain, with all their present rights maintained. To achieve this, the Greens assert that more powers for the Scottish Parliament would be necessary in order to avoid the “harsh measures” proposed by the UK Government.

Speaking upon the paper’s release, Green external affairs spokesperson Ross Greer MSP commented: “Demanding minimum income thresholds for family unification, expensive fees for visas, and a restrictive definition of family members is simply intolerable.”

"By devolving migration policy, Scotland can bring fairness and equality into the system, ensuring we keep hold of the economic and cultural benefits of free movement.”

READ MORE: Devolve immigration and employment law to Scotland, argues new Common Weal paper

The Common Weal think tank has also endorsed the devolution of immigration law in their paper ‘A Scottish approach to immigration post-Brexit’, authored by researcher and Unity Centre volunteer Mark Butterly, who wrote that “due to a combination of a lower birth rate and slower economic growth, Scotland is more dependent on migration generally than the rest of the UK.”  

Devolving immigration to Holyrood would allow Scotland to address its specific needs, “challenge the terms on which immigration has been debated for years in the UK” and also confront anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw has already lodged an amendment to today’s planned debate however, which removes any recognition of the “unique” nature of Scotland’s population needs and strongly argues that “any variable migration scheme for Scotland must be developed in close co-operation with the UK Government and within an overall framework."

Picture courtesy of byronv2

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