Separate Scottish visa system deemed feasible

It would be “entirely possible” for Scotland to operate an immigration system independent of the UK, according to a report today from a leading firm of immigration lawyers.

Scottish construction workers may be deemed skilled for visas
The 'Scottish Futures' report, commissioned from immigration specialists Fragomen by the Scottish National Party (SNP), was published on the day a poll by YouGov showed Britons as a whole had a markedly different view from the government over what should be considered 'skilled workers' when new immigration rules come into effect next year.Those rules will bar workers deemed to be low skilled from obtaining visas - a move that has angered certain sectors of the economy, which are heavily reliant on overseas workers.

SNP calls for separate Scottish visa system

In Scotland, which is more reliant on immigrants than the rest of the UK because of an ageing population and declining birth rate, the SNP has called for the introduction of a separate Scottish visa system - a move that Fragomen has adjudged to be “practical and workable”.Although Prime Minister Boris Johnson has branded the proposal of regional visa differences “fanciful and deranged”, the law firm concludes it would be feasible for Scotland to operate an immigration system distinct from the rest of the UK.The report even suggests that Scotland’s needs could be met through the retention of freedom of movement for EU nationals, which is due to come to an end on December 31 this year.

Could a separate immigration system for Scotland work?

Ian Robinson, a Fragomen partner, says, “It would be entirely possible to operate a Scottish immigration system distinct from the wider UK, or even continuing free movement in Scotland.“Scotland holds a series of unique migration challenges which are not necessarily felt by the remainder of the UK. This series of recommendations could reduce, if not entirely remove, the negative impacts of the 2021 reforms.”

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Welcoming the report, Stuart McDonald, the SNP's immigration spokesman, says that regional migration systems worked well in other countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland, so there "is no reason why it wouldn’t in Scotland".He adds, “It is not about replacing the UK system entirely – but providing extra tailor-made options, as happens in other countries.“Instead of dismissing workable ideas out of hand, as it has done in the past, the UK government must have grown-up discussions with the Scottish government to create a UK-wide migration system which includes additional options to address Scotland’s distinct demographics and support the needs of businesses, public services and communities.”

UK government working with Scottish stakeholders and industry

A UK government spokesperson says, “Our new points-based immigration system will work in the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom. We will continue to work with stakeholders and industry in Scotland to ensure the new proposals work for all sectors.”Meanwhile, the YouGov poll showed that a majority of Britons believed the like of carers, construction workers, chefs and farm workers should be considered as 'skilled' under the new immigration rules.The poll of more than 1,600 Britons found, however, that only a minority felt hospitality workers should be regarded as skilled.In a separate poll conducted after the government announced its plans for a points-based immigration system, 84 per cent of the 1,841 respondents agreed with the requirement that, to acquire a visa, migrants be able to speak English to a certain standard.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.
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