Designing a pilot remote and rural migration scheme for Scotland - analysis and policy options: our response

The Scottish Government’s response to the latest report by the Migration and Population Expert Advisory Group on options for designing a pilot migration scheme tailored to the distinct needs of Scotland’s rural and remote communities.

EAG report on designing pilot remote and rural migration scheme for Scotland

We welcome this latest piece of important analysis from the independent Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population. This paper sets out an independent analysis of future policy options for migration pilots for rural and remote areas in Scotland within a UK framework.

The Scottish Government is clear that we need a migration policy tailored to the distinct needs of Scotland’s economy, our public services, and our communities. The current approach to migration does not meet Scotland’s needs – especially in rural and remote communities. The UK Government’s advisory group, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), accept this point noting “The current migration system is not very effective in dealing with the particular problems remote communities experience. If these problems are to be addressed something more bespoke for these areas is needed.” In July 2019, the previous Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, made a written Ministerial Statement accepting the MAC’s recommendation to develop a pilot scheme that facilitated migration to rural and remote areas. 

Following the then-Home Secretary’s commitment, Scottish Ministers are committed to developing bespoke place-based approaches for migration and have written to the UK Government offering to work collaboratively to develop rural migration pilots. 

Immigration currently remains a reserved power retained by the UK Government. This means that new immigration rules, as a result of Brexit and the UK’s withdrawal from the European Single Market, now apply to Scotland. Scotland did not make this choice, and we have firmly outlined our concerns about the damaging impact of Brexit on Scotland’s future demography. This includes the fact that the UK Government definition of a ‘Skilled Worker’ excludes certain workers in key sectors who provide crucial contributions across Scotland. 

The Scottish Government is committed to developing practical, deliverable, and evidence-based migration solutions that can meet the distinct needs of our rural and remote communities and support our recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This expert analysis represents the next step in this process.

It draws upon on a range of evidence to set out a number of different potential models for a rural migration pilot. These range from expanding eligibility for the so-called ‘Skilled Worker Route’ for employers in certain areas, to establishing a bespoke ‘Scottish Visa’ for designated areas, to developing a rural and remote local partnership scheme between government, local authorities, and employers. 

Looking forward, we will take on this advice, considering in detail the three types of pilots proposed by the Expert Advisory Group. Then, in collaboration with COSLA and individual Scottish councils, we will develop a practical rural migration pilot proposal. We will continue to engage positively with the UK Government and the Migration Advisory Committee to focus on solutions and the development of a pilot initiative. 

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