Designing a pilot remote and rural migration scheme: analysis and policy options

This report sets out analysis and policy options to inform a potential pilot scheme for migration to remote and rural areas of Scotland.

3. Policy Options

Thus far, we have considered the demographic, economic and social factors that might influence the design of a remote and rural migration scheme (RRMS). In this chapter, we build on this analysis to set out the options for a scheme. We focus on two main dimensions that need to be considered in developing the RRMS.

  • Who should be admitted? This refers to the selection criteria, including what types of skills, experience or demographic profile should be prioritised (discussed in 3.1).
  • What rights and conditions should be built into the scheme? This covers features such as the flexibility to switch jobs or place of residence, access to social and public services, as well as the pathway to settlement (3.2).

We then group the options into three main proposals: a modified version of the UK Government's Skilled Worker route; a points-based system modelled on the Scottish Government's proposed Scottish Visa scheme; and an employer-led scheme modelled on the Canadian Atlantic scheme (3.3).

The analysis focuses on what a fully developed scheme might look like, before suggesting how a pilot scheme might be designed and evaluated (3.4). It draws on the second EAG report[25] which included assessment of and lessons learned from international models of regional migration schemes.

3.1 Selection criteria

The analysis of Chapters 1 and 2 examined the challenge of population decline in remote and rural areas, suggesting the need for what we term 'strategic mitigation': a focus on recruiting migrants with the occupations, skills and demographic profile that would best contribute to sustaining local businesses and communities. This implies a focus on working age migrants and their families; with the skills, experience and job preferences that match labour market needs or create new business opportunities in remote and rural areas; who intend to build a life in a designated remote/rural area of Scotland.

In previous reports, we have distinguished between employer-based and human capital based programmes for selecting migrants as part of an migration scheme. Both of these approaches could potentially be relevant for a RRMS that captures these three features.

A human capital-based scheme selects migrants based on characteristics such as age and family status, skills and experience, or links with the place of destination. These considerations could be built into a points-based system which gave particular weight to characteristics that best matched the programme goals. This may be an appealing approach for a RRMS, as it would accommodate a focus on particular occupations or skills that were of strategic importance in the rural/remote area in question. For example, such a system could give particular weight to those with skills and qualifications in social care, hospitality or food processing. It could also give weight to entrepreneurs intending to set up a business at the place of destination.

In terms of demographic characteristics, the points system could also give particular priority to younger migrants, and/or those with family. And it could also prioritise those with English language skills, and/or a prior or familial link to the region - for example, those who had previously studied or worked in Scotland or in a designated area of Scotland, or those with family ties to the area. This could increase the probability of entrants in the scheme settling in the host area. Such a points-based system could be restricted to entrants intending to work, or to live and work, in a designated area (see Chapter 2 for a discussion of this concept).

The main drawback of a scheme based purely on human capital criteria is that there would be no guarantee of a viable job, or - in the case of an entrepreneur scheme - that the business would be viable. For this reason, human capital points-based systems that do not build in a job offer typically provide access to generous rights, including unemployment/welfare support. Thus, for example, the Canadian Provincial Nomination Programme schemes provide a right to permanent settlement, including access to unemployment and other welfare benefits, from the outset.

By contrast, employment-based programmes are premised on a specific job offer. They rely on employers to identify candidates to fill particular vacancies. Such schemes therefore offer a more effective way of ensuring a 'fit' between entrants and the needs of local areas. Employment-based programmes may build in further conditions, which can ensure that such schemes are 'strategic' in the sense we have used. For example, they may involve restrictions linked to skills or salary thresholds (as is the case with the Skilled Worker route in the UK immigration system). These types of thresholds are likely to be less relevant to a RRMS, given that the types of occupations facing shortages may be on the lower skilled or lower salary end. Setting the threshold too high might rule out some of the occupations of most strategic importance to the designated area. However, such a scheme could build in conditions to ensure salaries are appropriate for the sector and occupation.

More relevant might be restrictions based on occupations. Thus employer-based programmes can be limited to particular occupations, reflecting acute shortages (as with the Shortage Occupation List, or SOL), or particular occupations within certain parts of the UK (as with the Scotland-only SOL). This would be of more relevance to a RRMS, as it could build in a range of occupations across different skills or salaries that are most crucial to strategic mitigation in remote and rural areas. Alternatively, an employment-based programme could allow employers in designated areas to recruit foreign workers without being subject to any salary, skills or occupations restrictions.

Employer-based programmes are able to address the problem of ensuring entrants have a job to go to, thereby ensuring financial stability for migrants and their families. Such programmes have tended to characterise UK immigration schemes, as well as those of most European countries. However, employer-based programmes are often characterised by fairly restrictive entry conditions, with limited scope for switching jobs or location, or transitioning to longer-term residency or permanent settlement. This is particularly the case for employer-based schemes that cover workers considered to be on the lower skills or salary end. For this reason, such schemes may be less obvious candidates for attracting migrants and their families to remote and rural areas, or for supporting pathways to permanent settlement.

As set out in the second EAG report, many schemes combine features of both human capital and employer-based programmes. A number of hybrid schemes within the points-based systems of Australia and Canada include criteria related to demographic and skills features, and also require a job offer.

3.2 Rights and conditions of stay

A second key dimension of an RRMS will be the rights and conditions of stay offered to entrants. This includes rights to family reunion, welfare and social benefits and access to public services; mobility and employment rights, including any restrictions on where migrants would be allowed to live and work; as well as pathways to longer-term residence and citizenship acquisition. This dimension of the RRMS will be crucial: the scheme will need to be tailored to influence mobility and settlement decisions in a way that attracts migrants, and addresses the goals of the RRMS.

Both human capital and employment-based programmes can build in generous packages of rights. Examples of generous human capital-based programmes designed for particular regions include the Canadian Provincial Nominee Programs and the Australian State Specific and Regional Migration Scheme. On these schemes, migrants are selected through points-based systems building in demographic and skills criteria. Entrants enjoy extensive rights from the outset - in the case of the Canadian scheme, akin to citizenship rights, and with no restrictions on free movement within Canada.

Examples of employment-led programmes with extensive rights include the Swedish 2008 labour migration programme, which offers permanent residency after 4 years. This scheme built in more generous conditions in order to address longer-term shortages in particular sectors and regions, and also to attract migrants whose skills were in particular demand.

As we set out in the second EAG report, a scheme to attract and retain migrants in particular areas will need to carefully balance two considerations. On the one hand, the package of rights needs to be sufficiently flexible and generous to attract and retain migrants and their families. On the other hand, in order to meet the needs of remote and rural areas at which the scheme is targeted, the RRMS will need to build in features to promote settlement in designated areas.

One aspect of this is how restrictive the scheme is in terms of residency. An employer-led scheme might require entrants to have a job with an employer based in a designated area, but not necessarily require them to live in that zone. Indeed, UK immigration control is reliant on employer checks, rather than residency check. Unlike most other European systems, there is no registration system or identity cards to underpin regular checks on the residence and status of migrants.

However, as noted in Chapter 2, remote and rural areas would benefit most where migrants work and reside in the designated area. This might be achieved either through a legal requirement to reside in the area, noting that this would create challenges to enforcement. Alternatively, residency within a designated area could be promoted through designing the scheme in a way that maximises the probability of residence in the relevant area. We will return to this point later in this chapter.

The second consideration is how rights and autonomy for migrants participating in the scheme evolve over time. Even where there are clear work (and residency) requirements in place at the outset, there will be strong reasons to relax these requirements over time. In the case of employment-based schemes, the employer may not be able to guarantee the position over time; or the employee may have good grounds to want to seek another position. Indeed, a scheme that ties the employee to a particular job over an extended period of time would limit labour market flexibility, and may increase risks of exploitation. The scheme may therefore need to build in a possibility to change employment within the designated area (or perhaps within all designated areas of Scotland) and thus also to change residence. Moreover, once the entrant has been granted permanent settlement, it would be reasonable to expect them/their family to be free to move within the UK.

On a human capital based programme, the connection to the remote/rural area would be ensured through the place of residence and employment being located in a designated area. However, in the event of entrants facing challenges in finding employment, such a scheme may want to build in some flexibility to move (perhaps within the designated area, or across all designated areas). And as with the employment-based scheme, after an initial period of time, it would be expected that entrants would accrue rights to free movement across the UK.

In the 2019 report, we examined four examples of how different schemes - in Australia, Canada, Spain and Sweden - had balanced the need to offer generous rights with a desire to meet particular labour market and demographic needs. In each case, the programme built in an incremental expansion of rights, alongside a gradual easing of restrictions on mobility. For example:

  • Under the Spanish Catalogue scheme, the migrant is tied to a specific job for the first year, with increasing flexibility for a further 2 + 2 years, and permanent residency (with no restrictions on mobility) after 5 years.
  • The recently introduced Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional visa in Australia requires one year in the designated job, and 5 years in the recruiting region, at which point the migrant can secure permanent residency (with no mobility restrictions).

Finally, we note the importance of building in measures to promote integration and settlement of migrants within the scheme. This will be especially critical for the RRMS, given the challenges in - and crucial importance of - promoting settlement in more remote areas. We will explore this question in more depth in Chapter 4, which focuses on measures to promote integration and settlement in host communities.

3.3 Options

Based on the analysis above, we now set out three options, which we consider would be potential models for addressing the goals of an RRMS. We briefly consider the advantages and disadvantages of each scheme, which we also summarise at the end across three key criteria: matching local needs; attracting/retaining migrants; and enforcement.

(a) Expanding Skilled Worker route to include remote/rural areas

The first scheme would involve relaxing conditions for the Skilled Worker route (previously known as Tier 2), specifically for employers in designated areas. As such, it would be an employment-based programme, which relied on employers based in designated areas to identify migrants to fill vacancies.

The UK Government has implemented the new Skilled Worker route from January 2021, which includes a points-based system as set out in Table 3.1. Entrants need to earn 70 points to apply to work in the UK.

Table 3.1: UK Skilled Worker Route
Characteristics Tradable Points
Offer of job by approved sponsor No 20
Job at appropriate skill level No 20
Speaks English at required level No 10
Salary of £20,480 (minimum) - £23,039 Yes 0
Salary of £23,040 - £25,599 Yes 10
Salary of £25,600 or above Yes 20
Job in a shortage occupation (as designated by the MAC) Yes 20
Education qualification: PhD in subject relevant to the job Yes 10
Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job Yes 20

We suggest two main ways of adjusting these points, in order to produce a RRMS.

Designated areas approach. The first option would be to relax (or remove) the skills and salary criteria for jobs in a designated area. This could be achieved by introducing additional points for jobs located in designated areas; and ensuring that points earned for skills level were tradeable. The resulting points-based system could be as depicted in Table 3.2 (changes are marked in bold). The minimum points to be earned would remain at 70. We note that the points required to participate in the scheme would not be tradeable, so strictly speaking this would be a threshold scheme (entrants need to meet a number of conditions to enter) rather than a points-based system as traditionally understood.

Table 3.2: Designated areas scheme
Characteristics Tradable Points
Offer of job by approved sponsor No 20
Job at appropriate skill level Yes 20
Speaks English at required level No 10
Salary of £20,480 (minimum) - £23,039 Yes 0
Salary of £23,040 - £25,599 Yes 10
Salary of £25,600 or above Yes 20
Job in a shortage occupation (as designated by the MAC) Yes 20
Job in a designated area No 40
Education qualification: PhD in subject relevant to the job Yes 10
Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job Yes 20

Occupational approach (within designated areas). Alternatively, the programme could be restricted to particular occupations which are considered to be of strategic importance to the area - for example, health and care occupations, or occupations in catering, food processing or hospitality. This would be operationalised through an expanded SOL specifically for remote and rural areas. The job would need to be located in a designated area, and match the list of shortage occupations. As for the approach above, entrants would earn additional points for moving to a designated areas, and also for working in a shortage occupation (see Table 3.3).

Table 3.3: Remote and rural SOL scheme
Characteristics Tradable Points
Offer of job by approved sponsor No 20
Job at appropriate skill level Yes 20
Speaks English at required level No 10
Salary of £20,480 (minimum) - £23,039 Yes 0
Salary of £23,040 - £25,599 Yes 10
Salary of £25,600 or above Yes 20
Job in a shortage occupation (remote and rural list) No 20
Job in a designated area No 20
Education qualification: PhD in subject relevant to the job Yes 10
Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job Yes 20

The remote and rural SOL could be developed by the MAC in close consultation with Scottish Government, local authorities and employers in designated areas. This consultation would be an important part of the process, as it would need to be part of a 'strategic mitigation' plan, identifying occupations in designated areas that faced acute shortages, and were key to mitigating population decline. Because this second option builds in a strategic element that identifies priority sectors and occupations, we consider it would be better equipped to address the needs of RRMS. It would also build on the precedent of the existing Scotland-only SOL. We therefore focus the analysis on considering this second variant of the modified Skilled Worker scheme.

In terms of conditions of stay, this route could align with the Skilled Worker route (which is based on the previous Tier 2 route). Similar to that route, employees would be permitted to switch jobs to another sponsored employer (as long as the new employment met relevant criteria, including in relation to the employment being located in a designated area). Entrants through this route would be able to extend their stay conditional on continued employment, and to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after 5 years. Once ILR was granted, restrictions on employment, including any geographical restriction, would be removed. Migrants could be accompanied by their spouse/partner and children under 18, who would have the right to work. Employers would need a sponsor license from the Home Office.

We note, however, that the Scotland-only SOL does not impose requirements on place of residence, meaning it is possible for an entrant to work within Scotland but live in another part of the UK. In order to maximise the benefits of this scheme for remote and rural areas, we suggest that the scheme would need to either encourage, or require, entrants and their families to also reside in the designated area. This would be more feasible if the designated area took the form of an existing TTWA, as discussed in Chapter 2. We discuss issues around implementing a residency requirement further in relation to option (b) below.

The advantage of the modified Skilled Worker approach is that it would involve only modest adjustments to current UK immigration rules. It would allow employers in remote areas to recruit migrants across a wider spectrum of skills, salaries and occupations (in a way that is not possible under previous Tier 2 or new Skilled Worker route provisions). It also builds in a route to permanent settlement, although migrants would need to have continuous employment in an eligible occupation and a designated area for 5 years. Such a scheme could potentially apply to designated remote and rural areas elsewhere in the UK, although we assume a pilot programme would be restricted to specified areas of Scotland.

Potential disadvantages of this approach are that it may not be sufficiently generous to attract migrants with the sought-after profile, given its relatively restrictive approach to extending stay and settlement. This may be less of a challenge if it is broadened to include occupations that are not generally considered to be 'skilled', which would imply the scheme could be accessed by a wider pool of potential migrants. However, we should also note that where the scheme included jobs with lower salaries, and especially where migrants arrive with dependents (which would be an advantage for remote and rural areas), they may need to be able to access Universal Credit.

A further disadvantage is that this scheme focuses strongly on the employer/employee relationship, without factoring in wider aspects of the experiences of, and integration of, migrants and their families. As noted, it would clearly be important to local areas facing depopulation that migrants not only worked in their area, but also resided and based their daily activities in the area. For this reason, this route would need to build in incentives or requirements to stay in the designated area. It should also build in support for migrants and their families to promote integration and settlement.

Finally, if the scheme were only open to employers with sponsor status, it may be too administratively onerous for small employers, who would also face challenges identifying employees.

Some of these disadvantages could be partially addressed through complementary initiatives. Should such a scheme be introduced, the Scottish Government and local authorities could introduce a series of 'softer' measures to support employers in identifying and recruiting migrants; to incentivise residence in the designated areas; and to foster longer term integration and settlement. We would recommend that this take the form of a partnership model involving key stakeholders including local authorities, employers, schools and voluntary organisations (see Chapter 4).

(b) Scottish Visa

The second scheme would build on the Scottish Government proposal for a Scottish Visa, but specifically targeted at designated areas. Rather than relying on employers identifying entrants, this option would require the Scottish Government and local authorities to prioritise the weighting of different features as part of a points-based system. This might include age, family/dependents, language skills, ties to the region, and occupation or skills. It could also build in a strand to attract entrepreneurs with business ideas. Scottish Government would set a quota for the number to be admitted, potentially by local authority.

Table 3.4 provides an example of how points might be weighted on such a scheme. This is based on the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Programme within the Canadian immigration system, analysed previously in the second EAG report.

Table 3.4: RRMS Scottish Visa points-based system
Factor Tradeable Points
Language Proficiency (English or Gaelic) No 20
Age Yes 10
Work Experience (full-time) Yes 10
Qualifications Yes 20
Adaptability* Yes 20

Note: Within the Manitoba PNP, 'adaptability' includes connection to the area, including a relative/friend living in the area, or previous work experience or education in the area.

In contrast to the UK Skilled Migrant route and its points-based system, some of the criteria are measured along scales (rather than yes/no answers), and there is a greater degree of tradability across points. This implies the need for more careful definitions (for example, setting out which age ranges earn which points within the age category); as well as more careful case-by-case interpretation of points earned (for factors such as 'adaptability'). As noted in previous studies, such points-based systems require more substantial investment in setting and adjusting scales and weightings, and in assessing potential entrants (Boswell et al 2017).

In contrast to the Scottish Visa proposal, we recommend that such a scheme would need to offer a generous package of rights from the outset, including recourse to public funds. This would be especially important for migrants moving to remote and rural areas, given the existence of 'shallow' labour markets in such areas (see Chapter 2); as well as for those migrants moving with their families who may need to access child support or other benefits. Moreover, we propose that such a scheme would need to allow greater mobility than the Tier 2 scheme, given the need to find suitable employment: migrants should be allowed to relocate to, and take up employment in, any designated area. We propose that the requirement to be based in a designated area would apply for the first 4 years, at which point migrants would be eligible for permanent residency and full mobility rights in the UK.

This scheme may be attractive to migrants and their families, if it offered a generous package of rights and a clear pathway to settlement. The disadvantage of this scheme is that it would not include a guarantee of viable employment, or a successful business start-up, in the place of destination. This risk could be partially mitigated by including criteria within the points-based system relating to particular occupations/skills that are in demand. Evidence of previous patterns of mobility to remote and rural areas suggests that migrants often move on their own for the first one or two years, and are then joined by family once they have a stable income, suitable accommodation, and have worked out where their children might go to school.

In the case of a scheme to attract entrepreneurs within a points-based system, the previous UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa category is targeted at potential businesses that have received at least £50,000 in funding from a registered venture capital firm or UK/devolved Government. This level of investment is unlikely to be feasible for many start-ups in remote and rural areas, so would need to be set at a lower level for potential entrepreneurs entering through an RRMS. However, in addition to raising capital, entrants would also need to have sufficient knowledge of the local economy to develop a viable business plan. Because of these potential impediments, we assume for the purpose of this discussion that most entrants would initially work as employees rather than starting their business, although that option may become more feasible after an initial period of stay.

A further challenge would be to enforce such a scheme, which would not be administered through employers. In the current UK immigration system, sponsored employers carry out checks on employees. A human capital-based system with no employment requirement would need to build in some form of registration system based on place of residence. Registered status would need to be checked at relatively regular points. The current UK approach would imply that these (non-employment related) checks be outsourced to a range of organisations and services, at the point they are accessed by migrants - such as welfare, health, higher education, private housing or banks. However, recent experience has shown that this system has significant disadvantages, as undocumented status may only be picked up once migrants are settled in the UK. Outsourcing checks can also create challenges for organisations enforcing measures, and inadvertently lead to discrimination. These issues would need to be considered carefully before opting for a scheme that relies on non-employer checks.

(c) Remote and rural partnership scheme

The third proposed scheme is modelled on the Canadian Atlantic Pilot scheme, also analysed in the second EAG report. It would take the form of an employment-based scheme, but as part of a wider partnership between local authorities, employers, public services and the voluntary sector. On this approach, entrants would need a specific job offer from an employer in a designated area, as with the first option. However, local authorities, employers and public services (henceforth 'the partners') would play a more active role in identifying which types of areas and employers would benefit most from the scheme, and would be engaged in delivering an integration plan. We propose the following process for designing the programme.

The first step in developing such a scheme would be to identify designated areas to participate in the programme (see Chapter 2). The Scottish Government would work with local authorities and employers in these designated areas to develop a 'strategic mitigation' plan. As outlined for the remote/rural SOL (see the first option), this would involve identifying occupations and sectors in designated areas that were seen as crucial for mitigating population decline. However, unlike for the SOL option, they could be areas that display strong potential for future growth/regeneration, rather than being limited to those that could demonstrate (existing) acute shortages.

Second, employers with job vacancies within the occupations identified in the strategic mitigation plan could enrol in the scheme. They would agree to take an active role in supporting employees, including a guaranteed job for the first 12 months (with strong prospects for sustaining over 4 years), and providing various forms of support, for example in language and skills training. Employers would in turn receive support in recruiting workers from overseas, and would not be required to pay fees for a licence or skills charge.

Third, enrolled employers would then nominate employees to enter through the scheme, entrants would need to be endorsed by the local authority/Scottish Government, and approved by the Home Office. Those entering under the scheme would signal their intention to stay/settle in a designated area of Scotland (for at least 4 years). They would have a job offer, and be offered an integration package including help in finding accommodation, schooling, access to health and other public services, and language classes for the family (further discussed in Chapter 4).

We recommend that such a scheme begin with quite clear conditions of employment and residency, which would be gradually eased over the first 4 years. A possible approach to this might be as follows.

  • First 12 months: requirement to stay in the relevant job (and employer needs to be able to guarantee at least 12 months employment).
  • First 24 months: requirement to be employed by an employer enrolled in the partnership.
  • First 4 years: requirement to be employed within a designated area.
  • After 4 years: permanent residency, and no restrictions on mobility within the UK.

This pathway could also be simplified, for example through omitting the second requirement (referring to the first 24 months). We propose that entrants would be entitled to access public funds (including Universal Credit) after the first 12 months.

As discussed in Chapter 2, it would be most beneficial for local areas if entrants would both work and reside in the designated area. If designated areas are defined as co-extensive with TTWAs, this is likely to be achievable in the majority of cases. Where local areas also provide a generous package of support to migrants and their families, this would also provide a strong incentive to live and settle in the designated area (see Chapter 4 for a discussion of this partnership approach). Clearly, the RRMS could also build in a requirement to reside in the designated area, although this would face the types of enforcement challenges outlined in the discussion of the option (b), the Scottish Visa.

Table 3.5: Summary of proposals
Modified Skilled Worker route Scottish Visa Partnership scheme
Designated areas Yes Yes Yes
Job offer Yes No Yes
Occupation list No for option 1 Yes for option 2 Possibly (within points-based system) Yes
Employment restrictions Yes (aligned with Skilled Worker route) No Yes (easing after 12 months)
Settlement/ILR After 5 years From the outset After 4 years
Recourse to public funds After settlement From the outset After 12 months
Mode of enforcement Employer sponsorship Other checks Employer enrolment system (new)
Table 3.6: Summary of pros and cons
Modified Skilled Worker route Scottish Visa Partnership scheme
Matching local needs Yes Moderate Yes
Attracting and retaining migrants Moderate Yes Yes
Enforcement Yes No Yes

3.4 Designing a Pilot Scheme

Thus far, we have examined what form a fully-fledged RRMS might take. Based on this analysis, we now consider how UK and Scottish Government might roll out a pilot scheme to assess the viability and effects of such a RRMS. The pilot scheme would need to be designed in a way that enabled a rigorous assessment of whether the chosen approach could meet the objectives of the RRMS.

We defined the overarching objective of the RRMS as being to promote strategic mitigation of population decline in remote and rural areas of Scotland. This objective would be promoted through meeting the more specific goals of:

  • Attracting migrants with the appropriate profile to match the goals of strategic mitigation, particularly in relation to their skills, occupation and job preferences; and intentions to settle in designated areas.
  • Supporting the migration and longer-term settlement of these migrants and their families in designated remote and rural areas.

A pilot scheme would involve trialling the scheme for a small number of migrants, and assessing how far it was able to achieve these goals through a bundle of indicators (see below). We note that the focus of the pilot scheme would need be on the specific goals set out above (attracting and retaining migrants with relevant profile). A pilot scheme involving small numbers would be unlikely, in itself, to meet the overarching objective of strategic mitigation (although a fully-fledged scheme may be able to achieve this). We now consider what form a pilot scheme might take, for each of the three main options we set out above.

(a) Modified Skilled Worker scheme. A pilot scheme for this route would involve expanding the number of occupations on the Scotland-only SOL, potentially through a specific SOL for remote and rural areas of Scotland. For example, the analysis might reveal that the remote and rural SOL should include primary and secondary teaching professionals across all subjects, and occupations in food processing, catering and hospitality. Depending on the occupations listed, this may require relaxing the condition on skills level (a category that is non-tradeable within the new Skilled Migrants route). Salary thresholds would be set at a level appropriate to the occupation. See Table 3.3 (above) for how the points based system might be adjusted to accommodate this programme.

There are three main options for limiting numbers on a pilot programme for this scheme:

  • Restricting the designated areas. For example, the pilot could involve designated zones in just one or two local authorities.
  • Restricting the list of occupations. For example, the remote and rural SOL could include just 2 or 3 shortage occupations.
  • Introducing a cap on the number of entrants (for example, 200 entrants).

We propose that the first approach would be most effective, combined with a cap. It would allow for a relative concentration of entrants in a particular designated area, with the potential for positive synergies generated by recruiting migrants across different areas of economic activity and public services. It would also representing more value for money, enabling concentrated investment in infrastructure and services to support migrants in a smaller area.

(b) Scottish Visa. A pilot scheme for the Scottish Visa would involve trialling a points-based system to attract migrants with the relevant skills and profile to designated areas. For the reasons mentioned above, we consider that a pilot should take the form of a scheme focused on designated areas in one or two local authorities. This would create the potential for a more meaningful impact in the designated local areas, and more efficient concentration of resources to support integration.

In addition, the pilot scheme could build in the possibility of adjusting the criteria and points depending on the volume of applicants. Thus, for example, if there is low take-up, the scheme could lower relevant criteria; and conversely, raise them if there is high demand. There could also be a cap on the number of entrants to the pilot scheme (for example, 200).

(c) Partnership Scheme. As with the previous proposals, a partnership RRMS could be piloted in cooperation with one or two local authorities that contain designated areas. As with the previous schemes, it could build in a cap of 200 entrants.

3.5 Evaluating the Scheme

The long-term success of the scheme would be assessed to a large extent based on its potential to contribute to strategic mitigation in remote and rural areas facing depopulation. However, such an effect may take many years to kick in, and it may be difficult to attribute such specific outcomes to a single policy intervention. Moreover, it may be the case that in-migration contributes to mitigating a more negative outcome (rather than avoiding it altogether).

For these reasons, we consider it would be more feasible and appropriate to evaluate the performance of the scheme in relation to more specific medium-term goals, notably:

  • Attracting migrants with the appropriate profile to contribute to the economic and social well-being of the local community in designated areas.
  • Supporting the integration and long-term settlement of migrants and their families in these designated areas.

In addition, evaluation would also need to build in 'process' related criteria, covering cost effectiveness, and efficiency and efficacy of implementation. (We will not cover this third criterion in our report, as these administrative considerations lie beyond the scope of EAG analysis.)

Relevant indicators for measuring achievement of these goals are listed in Table 3.7. The table lists a range of indicators, to allow evaluation of the scheme from the outset.

Table 3.7: Evaluation indicators
Goal Attracting migrants Integration and settlement
Indicators Number of applicants Admin data Entry with/joined by family Admin data
Number of entrants Admin data Entrant employment trajectory Admin data
Employers (sponsors/enrolled) successful in recruiting Admin data Partner employment trajectory Survey data
Coverage of key sectors/occupations Admin data, survey data Housing (rental/owned) Survey data
Coverage of designated areas Admin data

Engagement with community groups Survey data

Enrolment in language/citizenship classes Survey data

Dependents integrated in school system Survey data

Entrant stays in designated area Admin data (first 4 years); survey data

Acquires ILR/citizenship Admin data

In terms of the first goal (attracting migrants), these indicators can be largely measured through quantitative administrative data on employer sponsorship/enrolment for schemes (a) and (c); applications to the scheme; visa decisions; and entry/take-up of employment.

Clearly, evidence on long-term settlement will only become available after several years. A relevant time-frame to ascertain whether entrants to the scheme were likely to settle in the designated area might be a period of 4 or 5 years. This would be a lengthy time-frame for evaluating a pilot scheme.

Fortunately, there are a number of interim indicators that would enable one to ascertain whether entrants intended to settle in a designated area; and whether there was evidence of integration into relevant social and economic systems. Relevant indicators might be patterns of entry and employment, and eventually on applications for ILR or citizenship (gathered through administrative data). Other indicators - such as housing, integration into education systems, or engagement with language classes or community groups - might be collected through a survey on those participating in the pilot scheme. Written or oral surveys could also gather data on migrants' perceptions of integration and well-being, and their intention to stay. We propose that entrants to the pilot scheme enrol in a longitudinal survey, which gathers data on their residence, work, family status and other relevant indicators on an annual basis, over the first 5 years.



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