The contribution of EEA citizens to Scotland: response to the Migration Advisory Committee call for evidence

This paper sets out the latest evidence on the contribution that EEA citizens make to Scotland.


This paper, together with the accompanying analytical annex, sets out the vital contribution that workers from other EU countries make to Scotland, to our economy, society and culture.

As the evidence demonstrates, the impact of migration from the EU and beyond to Scotland has been overwhelming positive. EU migration contributes to the wide pool of low, medium and highly skilled labour essential for employers and businesses across sectors in Scotland.

Migration also supports population growth, and our ageing population. In fact, migration is absolutely critical to ensuring sustainable population growth over the next 25 years. This contrasts with the picture across the UK a whole, where a combination of migration and nature change drive population growth. As the evidence in this paper shows, all of Scotland's population growth over the next 10 years is projected to come from migration.

Furthermore, migration supports rural communities and jobs, bringing essential labour to rural industries, and supporting public services including healthcare and schools.

The Scottish Government continues to believe that maintaining free movement of persons, as part of the single market, is in the best interests of the United Kingdom as a whole, and of Scotland. The evidence that we have provided, drawn from across the Scottish economy, supports this view. EU citizens make a vital contribution, and their right to live, work, study and invest here must be protected.

Future Migration Scheme

It is vital that we are able to continue to welcome here those who wish to make a contribution to Scotland, in order to meet both our demographic and economic needs.

The clear position of the Scottish Government is that Scotland and the UK's best interests are served by continued membership of the European single market, allowing them to continue to benefit from free movement of people. This was explored in our paper "Scotland's Place in Europe", published in December 2016, which also set out how free movement of people could continue in Scotland even if the UK were to leave the single market [101] .

Scotland is a progressive, outward-looking nation. We recognise that migration strengthens our society and our nation benefits from the skills, the experience and the expertise of those individuals who have chosen to live, work and study in Scotland. Future migration systems should ensure that Scotland is able to continue to welcome those who want to study, live, work and raise their families here.

The intention stated by the MAC to look at regional systems of immigration is welcome, and we agree with the need to examine how devolution or differentiation can ensure migration patterns of the sort that Scotland particularly needs: working-age people coming to the country to take up permanent work, and raise families here through long-term settlement in their communities.

Given the UK focus solely on the economic contribution of migrants, however, it is increasingly clear that UK policy does not and cannot address the demographic and social needs of Scotland.

Our Programme for Government "A Nation with Ambition: The Government's Programme for Scotland 2017-2018" includes a commitment to publish a series of evidence based discussion papers setting out the case for further extending the powers of the Scottish Parliament in a number of key areas including in relation to immigration. We will shortly publish a paper setting out why it is vital to our economy to be able to attract talent from across the world; why the current UK Government policy is so harmful to Scotland's interests; and how a more flexible approach to immigration with more power for the Scottish Parliament could operate.

There is broad agreement across political parties in Scotland that there needs to be a different approach to migration. In Westminster too, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration argue in their report of 25 August 2017 that responsibility for immigration should be devolved. The Scottish Affairs Committee, too, in their report on the 'Demography of Scotland and Implications for Devolution', have also underlined the need for tailored immigration policies.

While immigration remains reserved, there are changes to the UK-wide policy and systems that would benefit Scotland and other parts of the UK. The UK Government should abolish their net migration target; or at the very least, migration to Scotland should not be included within the target. International students in the UK should also not be included in the net migration target.

The UK Government should abolish the Immigration Skills Charge, which is an unhelpful burden on employers seeking access to the best skills and talent across the world.

Within the current system, a more flexible and responsive approach to the existing mechanism of the Scotland Shortage Occupation List and reinstatement of the withdrawn routes to post-study work for international students are straightforward measures the UK Government should introduce immediately.

Case study three: Fresh Talent

In 2005, Scotland's Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme ( FT: WISS),was introduced against a background of growing concerns about the demographic challenge facing Scotland, as well as skill shortages in the Scottish economy [102] . The Scheme attracted students to study in Scotland, and to remain here to live and work for two years after graduation.

The Scheme was viewed across sectors as a success and evidence showed that FT: WISS was an effective means of attracting prospective international students to consider Scotland as a place to study [103] . Home Office data demonstrates that between 2005 and 2008, 7,620 non- EEA students were granted visa extensions under FT: WISS [104] . The UK Government took the decision to mainstream the Scheme across the UK, by first launching the International Graduate Scheme ( IGS), as described above, and then by mainstreaming both IGS and FT: WISS into Tier 1 of the UK Government's Points Based System ( PBS).

There is consensus in Scotland, amongst business, education and every political party represented in Holyrood that we need a return of the post study route to allow talented students to remain and contribute to the Scottish economy. Our calls for its reintroduction have been backed by colleges and higher education institutions across Scotland, sector bodies and more than 60 businesses.

We are disappointed that, to date, the UK Government has not honoured the recommendation in the Smith report to explore a potential post-study work route to ensure Scotland continues to attract and retain talent from around the world, and indeed appears to have ruled out a return of a Post Study Work Visa, without meeting with Scottish Ministers or stakeholders.


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