Building a New Scotland: migration to Scotland after independence

This paper sets out the Scottish Government's proposals for migration policy in an independent Scotland.

Foreword by the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice

Scotland's future success as a country is dependent above all else on the people who live here.

The Scottish Government believes that it is through our collective talents, together with the powers that come from being an independent state, that we have the best prospect of building a better Scotland for this and future generations.

Our vision is of a welcoming, international nation in which diversity is celebrated and which works in partnership with our closest friends in the rest of the UK, in Europe and the wider world to tackle the great challenges of our time. A country in which we show humanity and compassion to those fleeing persecution and conflict.

It is these values that will determine our approach to migration and asylum policy in an independent Scotland.

We reject utterly both the policy and language that the UK Government has used in recent years.

For Scotland, however, migration policy goes beyond celebrating diversity and pushing back against language that runs contrary to our values.

This is also about our economic prospects.

Twenty years ago, it was feared that Scotland's population was going to fall.

Through a combination of factors, including the policy of freedom of movement that came with EU membership, those fears were not realised.

However, uniquely among the nations of the UK, Scotland is now once again projected to face a decline in both our overall and our working populations.

The prospect of a falling population is one of the biggest policy challenges facing Scotland.

But despite having very distinct needs, we are subject to a uniform 'hostile environment' UK migration policy. That means Scotland's future is being determined by a Westminster government which says its ambition is to cut the number of people coming into the UK.

This paper shows that would be immensely damaging to Scotland. Higher migration leads to higher productivity, which is the key driver of higher living standards.

Migrants contribute to a higher national income, bring greater innovation, start more businesses and pay more in taxes than they receive in public services.

And the paper highlights the positive role that people who choose to live and work here make to the NHS and to vital Scottish industries, such as food and drink and tourism.

So here we set out a new approach: an immigration system that supports a stronger economy and better public services, rather than one which operates as a barrier to those goals; a system that adopts a managed, controlled approach which commands public confidence.

The UK Government has refused to adapt its migration policy to meet Scotland's unique needs and they have said they will not transfer powers over migration from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament.

So it is only through independence that we can gain the vital decision-making powers to ensure our migration policy works for – and not against – Scotland's interests.

Shirley-Anne Somerville

Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice



Back to top