Parliament backs migration powers

Cross-party support for tailored policy for Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament has backed the need for Scotland to have the power to create a migration policy tailored to its needs. 

Cross-party support was secured for a Scottish Government motion setting out the need for a Scotland-specific approach that addresses some of Scotland’s distinct demographic circumstances.

The debate followed on from a Scottish Government discussion paper – published earlier this month – which found the UK Government’s proposed policy of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands could damage Scotland’s economy by up to £10 billion per year by 2040. The paper set out how this is avoidable through a Scotland-specific migration policy, and how it could work in practice.

The number of deaths is expected to outweigh the number of births for every year in Scotland until 2040, meaning action is needed to grow the working age population.

External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

“Today’s vote in the Scottish Parliament means there is now cross-party support for Scotland to have migration policy tailor-made for Scotland’s population needs.

“There is a growing consensus, from a wide range of organisations, that Scotland’s unique demographic challenges make it vital for us to have the power to set a policy tailored to our needs. The Scottish Government will continue to work to build on this momentum. 

“Scotland relies more heavily on inward migration for population growth than other parts of the UK - therefore a UK-wide policy to reduce net migration is not in Scotland’s interests. And there is no reason why applying different migration rules to different parts of the UK should be problematic. In fact it has been done before with the Fresh Talent Scheme which operated in Scotland, and there are many international examples in countries like Australia and Canada.

“Our discussion paper, published earlier this month, clearly sets out the devastating economic consequences of falling migration levels in the years to come. Beyond the economic argument we want a country which is welcoming, and recognises the contribution made by the people who come to make Scotland their home – enriching our culture and our communities.”

Director of IPPR Scotland, Russell Gunson said:

“Today’s debate comes at an important moment because Brexit negotiations provide an opportune time for us to rethink immigration policy across the UK.

“As has been set out in IPPR’s ‘an immigration strategy for the UK: six proposals to manage migration for economic success’, the existing UK-wide immigration strategy is not working for Scotland, and not working for the UK as a whole.

“We know that opposition to immigration is lower in Scotland than many other parts of the UK, and that Scotland also faces specific challenges around an ageing population, productivity and innovation, which could be addressed to some extent through a tailor-made immigration policy for Scotland. Devolving parts of immigration policy to Scotland, and other parts of the UK, makes sense and should be strongly considered as Brexit negotiations continue.”

David Lott, Deputy Director at Universities Scotland said:

“Smart people from across the globe want to come to Scotland to study, work and live here because of its world-class higher education sector. Scottish universities want to welcome the world and it’s crucial we as a nation are open to talent. We would welcome partial devolution to Scotland of immigration policy that would support our vision.”


Read the migration paper in full.


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