Rural visa pilot proposed

Need for tailored migration solution agreed by Scottish Parliament.

A proposal endorsed by Parliament for a bespoke rural visa pilot scheme for Scotland has been published.

This community-driven and employer-based migration proposal has been jointly developed by the Scottish Government, local authorities and key representatives from employers and partners based within remote and rural communities.

The proposal which requires to be implemented by the UK Government is modelled on the successful Canadian Atlantic Immigration Program.

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon has written to the UK Government, setting out the proposal alongside a wider call for a tailored migration policy which meets the needs of Scotland’s economy, public services and communities.

Ms Gougeon said:

“The proposal sets out exactly how a bespoke immigration solution could be delivered at a local level in Scotland, now. These are interventions that can work in Scotland, just as they have worked in Canada.

“We believe that an independent Scotland would be best placed to deliver an immigration system which would meet Scotland’s needs. But employers, businesses, and communities are all telling us that actions are needed now. 

“That is why we are calling upon the UK Government to make the required reforms to its ‘one size fits all’ immigration system with immediate effect, to avoid ongoing and further damage being done to Scotland.”

Theona Morrison, Chair, Scottish Rural Action said:

“Scottish Rural Action has been pleased to contribute to the design of the Scottish Rural Community Immigration Pilot (SRCIP) proposal.

“Rural and island communities across Scotland have demanded specific responses, and so we have been encouraged to see that the SRCIP has been designed to reflect the needs of individual communities.

“We hope that the UK Government considers this proposal and acts upon it in ways that support the flourishing of rural and island communities in Scotland.”

Councillor Emma MacDonald Political Leader of Shetland Council said:

“Shetland has incredible economic opportunities arising over the next few years, with developments in space, energy and decommissioning emerging alongside the continued high performance of our more established sectors such as fishing, aquaculture, construction and agriculture. However, an ageing demographic and shortage of key skills means that we are experiencing real struggles in growing our industries and maintaining key services, threatening economic prosperity and the potential for growth.

“The proposed rural visa pilot will recognise the pressing need for bespoke measures to address these challenges in rural areas.”


The Scottish Government’s Rural Visa Pilot proposal.

Proposal summary:

This proposal calls for the establishment of a Scottish Rural Community Immigration Pilot (SRCIP). The Pilot would represent a new community-driven approach to local migration.

  • The scheme would allow rural and remote communities to attract migrants in line with their distinct needs.
  • Participating employer-sponsors within designated geographic areas, referred to as Community Pilot Areas, would advertise vacancies (using SRCIP bespoke entry criteria).
  • Employers and communities would then be able to assess prospective candidates, before recommending chosen candidates to the Home Office for final approval and security checks.
  • Once a decision is approved, community partners – including employers, local statutory, and third sector services – would offer a package of integrated settlement support services for newcomers.
  • Participating employers, in collaboration with Scottish Government and UK Government organisations, would also have responsibility for ensuring that terms and conditions of the scheme continued to be met.

The Migration Advisory Committee highlighted evidence from the Scottish Government on remote communities in their report of May 2019, and recommended the UK Government pilot a scheme to attract and retain migrants in remote areas.  The then Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, accepted that recommendation to develop a pilot scheme in a Written Ministerial Statement on 23 July 2019.

The Rural Visa Pilot Scheme is modelled on place-based migration solutions shown through the Canadian Atlantic Immigration Program and Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.

The Ministerial Population Taskforce, set up in 2019, published Scotland’s first population strategy in 2021, A Scotland for the future: opportunities and challenges of Scotland's changing population. As part of the Ministerial Population Taskforce’s priority work to deliver a more balanced population in which all of Scotland’s communities can flourish, the Scottish Government has committed to developing an Addressing Depopulation Action Plan.

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