The Scottish government has called for greater say over Scotland’s migration policy, citing the country’s specific economic and social needs.
The Scottish administration welcomed the announcement by the UK government last week that it intended to reintroduce the two-year post-study work visa for international students leaving higher education, aimed at allowing university leavers to remain in the UK to establish their careers, which was withdrawn in 2012. However, Scottish ministers noted that the UK’s ‘damaging’ wider migration policies – including the ending of freedom of movement for EU citizens after Brexit – risked causing disproportionate harm to Scotland; and called for the introduction of a separate Scotland migration policy.
A report published in March this year by the independent Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population, established by the Scottish government, found that the UK government’s proposals on migration could cut outside migration to Scotland by up to 50%. Meanwhile Scotland’s birth rate for spring 2019 fell to its lowest since 1855, when records began; meaning that the country’s reliance on migrants to bolster its workforce and economy is likely to grow. The government said a more devolved migration policy for Scotland could help protect the country’s economy and public services, as well as facilitating future population growth.
Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: “The UK Government’s wider proposals for a migration system would be disastrous for Scotland, particularly for sectors integral to our economy such as tourism, hospitality, construction, financial services and agriculture. Given our declining birth rate, all of Scotland’s population growth for the next 25 years is projected to come from migration; but the UK Government’s proposals to end free movement of people and set arbitrary migration targets present a real risk. It is clearer by the day that Scotland urgently needs a migration policy tailored to our distinct needs and for the devolution of powers to develop, deliver and maintain policies that meet the needs of Scotland’s universities, communities, public services and economy.”