Scotland’s Migration Minister Ben Macpherson has called on the UK Home Office to facilitate the development of a progressive Scottish immigration policy.
Macpherson has published a letter to Caroline Nokes, the UK’s Minister for Immigration, which was also copied to Welsh Brexit Minister Jeremy Miles and Head of the Civil Service in Northern Ireland David Sterling; drawing attention to the region-specific issues posed by immigration policy in Scotland and proposing a pilot for a new approach to Scotland’s immigration strategy.
In the letter, Macpherson says: ‘I note that the Home Secretary has given a further commission to the Migration Advisory Committee [MAC] on salary thresholds in the skilled worker route, including regional salary levels, and it would be helpful to understand the UK Government’s thinking in asking the MAC to look again at this question. As you know, the proposed threshold of £30,000 would have a catastrophic effect on Scotland’s economy so it is welcome this review has been commissioned.
‘Given the significance of the matter to Scotland, I would also like to discuss how we can work together to deliver the regional immigration pilot projects the MAC recommended in their most recent report, which was a welcome acknowledgement of the need for tailored migration policy for different parts of the country. The Immigration White Paper proposed a review of the role of the MAC, which the Home Secretary touched on in his letter to the Chair, and I would appreciate an update on that strand of work, including terms of reference and timescales.’
The letter anticipates Nokes’ attendance at the next ‘four nations’ meeting on migration, where immigration ministers of the UK’s constituent nations will meet to exchange resources and form strategy on immigration. Macpherson requests Nokes provide information on timescales for the implementation of the Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, which will end freedom of movement for EU citizens in the UK after Brexit; and an update on proposed leave to remain for students, which in its current iteration would see students at Scottish universities – which typically offer four-year degree courses – disadvantaged by the proposed three-year period of leave to remain.
Macpherson raises further issues concerning Scotland immigration matters, including the risk of exploitation of migrant workers in the fishing industry and the lack of available detail surrounding the EU settlement scheme for EU citizens who wish to remain in the UK after Brexit, saying: ‘I strongly urge the UK Government to commit every effort to resolving this issue as quickly as possible. However, it remains open to the UK Government to guarantee the rights conferred on EU citizens in the UK by the Withdrawal Agreement unilaterally and I seek your assurance that the UK Government is committed to this course of action should the joint work to secure citizens’ rights fail.’