UK immigration policy after leaving the EU: impacts on Scotland's economy, population and society - July 2020 update

An update to the February 2019 report by the independent Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population, considering the impact of the UK Government’s proposed immigration policy changes and how these may affect Scotland.

3. Policy Implications

Finally, we consider some of the policy implications of the proposals in the 2020 Policy Statement, focusing on how far they meet Scottish Government goals. The Policy Statement indicates the removal of the previously proposed transitional arrangements for temporary, lower-skilled migration to the UK. In our February 2019 report, we did not include these flows in our projections and analysis, given that they would involve short-term mobility of under 1 year, and thus not meet the formal definition of international migration. However, in the study we did consider the implications of patterns of temporary and seasonal labour for local communities. Here, we briefly reflect on the impact of removing any legal channel for recruiting migrants who do not meet the Tier 2 threshold.

Experience from other OECD countries suggest that restrictions to labour migration that result in acute shortages frequently lead to two scenarios:

  • The (re)introduction of specific occupational or temporary programmes to meet acute shortages. Where immigration systems do not build in regular routes for workers to meet demand, countries have tended to introduce ad hoc or stop-gap arrangements, that can create a complex patchwork of different programmes. We note that the emergence of a more complex system of ad hoc programmes may undermine goals of simplicity and transparency in the immigration system. We also note that such an arrangement may also impede integration and longer-term settlement in local communities in Scotland, as outlined in the main EAG report.
  • An increase in irregular movement and employment, as employers seek to meet shortages outside of regular channels. Certain sectors may be more susceptible to irregular patterns of recruitment and employment, because of the nature of employment practices as well as impediments to regulation and enforcement in the sector. Again, experience from other OECD countries suggests that sectors such as hospitality/catering, domestic work, agriculture, construction and some areas of manufacturing may be more prone to such patterns. Again, any increase in irregular movement, work and stay would be damaging for local communities and more general confidence in the immigration system.

Finally, we note that the Policy Statement does not support arguments for a differentiated system, for example through regional salary differentials, or a rural pilot scheme. However, there are still some potential channels through which the Scottish Government could realise its population goals, notably in relation to addressing challenges of depopulation and labour shortages. Specifically, Scottish Government may want to consider:

  • Criteria and processes for determining which occupations are included in the Shortage Occupation List, including through reconsideration of the methodology for designating shortages.
  • Adjusting the points-based system, which the Policy Statement acknowledges may be subject to future revision. For example, the Scottish Government might want to make a case for accruing points based on taking up employment in particular areas (e.g. those facing depopulation).



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