Migration: helping Scotland prosper

Paper detailing how a tailored migration policy, within a UK framework, could operate to meet Scotland's distinct needs.

Next Steps

The Scottish Government believes that migration strengthens society and the nation benefits from the skills, experience and expertise of people who have chosen to live, work, study and raise their families in Scotland. Inward migration, whether from the rest of the UK, the EU or further afield, has made an overwhelmingly positive contribution to Scotland’s economy and society, and migrants play a vital part in ensuring that Scotland remains a diverse and outward-looking country that is open to the world.

Scotland also needs a different approach to migration policy. With more deaths than births projected each year going forward until at least 2043, all of Scotland’s population growth will come from migration. It is important to ensure that the immigration system enables businesses and public services to recruit individuals with the skills that they need; allows communities to prosper and is fair and transparent to individuals and employers seeking to navigate the system; and is designed and targeted in a way to help respond to the implications of demographic change. 

The UK Government remains committed to ending free movement as the UK leaves the EU, and implementing a restrictive immigration system in its place in a very short timeframe. Whether or not this could be achieved in the time available, this would not be in Scotland’s interests.

Equally, whether or not the UK leaves the EU and ends free movement, or remains in the European Single Market and free movement continues, the different situation in Scotland demands different, additional solutions. The UK Government has suggested the adoption of a points-based immigration system. Countries with similar systems such as Canada and Australia incorporate regional flexibilities by working with provincial, state and territorial governments to offer a range of tailored migration initiatives. 

There is an obvious parallel there with Scotland’s situation in relation to the rest of the UK. The establishment of the Scottish Parliament reflected an acceptance of the need for a differentiated approach to policy making in Scotland across a range of key issues. It allows for tailored approaches to specific challenges. As the Migration Observatory noted in a 2017 report on regional migration policy, Australia and Canada have full federal structures with democratically elected legislatures and executives to manage such regional differentiation. Scotland, as in Wales and Northern Ireland, also has a democratically elected legislature along with executive and administrative capacity and governance and accountability mechanisms to manage such policy differentiation in the UK context.

It is clear that a tailored approach to migration policy for Scotland could work – it requires political will, and an ongoing commitment to partnership working, to make it happen.

Welcome To Scotland

Migration into Scotland comprises people moving to Scotland from the rest of the UK and those moving from other countries. In every year since mid-2000 the number of people moving to Scotland from the rest of the UK exceeded the number of those moving in the opposite direction. Similarly the number of people who moved to Scotland from overseas exceeded the number of people who left Scotland in the opposite direction. People want to move to Scotland. It is an attractive destination. However, proposals to end freedom of movement and the constraints that the UK Government has placed on international migration prevent people from moving to Scotland and making a positive contribution to our economy and our communities. 

Moving to a new country can be challenging. Individuals and families may need help to understand their rights and responsibilities and navigate and access the appropriate information and services.

The Welcome to Scotland resource is a practical online tool to help and assist people who have chosen to make Scotland their home. It will aim to ensure individuals are well informed, knowledgeable and empowered when moving to Scotland. It will also aim to mitigate any barriers that migrants may face following their decision to move to Scotland, such as perceived lack of support, difficulty accessing public services or complexity of information.


Email: Migration@gov.scot

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