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16/09/19 00:01

Urgent need for immigration powers

Call for change to protect public services and population.

The Scottish Government has called for greater powers over immigration policy to protect Scotland’s economy, public services and future population growth.

The call comes after the UK Government said this week it would reverse its 2012 decision to scrap a post-study work visa for international students, allowing them to stay in the UK for two years after graduation to seek work.

Ministers welcomed the decision as a positive first step in reversing some of the UK Government’s damaging immigration policies, but warned the UK Government’s wider plans, including the immigration skills charge and ending freedom of movement, could significantly reduce the number of workers in Scotland.

Speaking ahead of a Scottish Parliament debate on family migration on Tuesday, Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: “The UK Government’s wider proposals for a migration system would be disastrous for Scotland, particularly for sectors integral to our economy such as tourism, hospitality, construction, financial services and agriculture.

"Given our declining birth rate all of Scotland's population growth for the next 25 years is projected to come from migration, but the UK Government's proposals to end free movement of people and set arbitrary migration targets present a real risk.

“It is clearer by the day that Scotland urgently needs a migration policy tailored to our distinct needs and for the devolution of powers to develop, deliver and maintain policies that meet the needs of Scotland’s universities, communities, public services and economy.”

Background

Scotland's population stands at an all-time high of 5.4 million, but statistics from the National Records of Scotland show the Spring birth rate has fallen to its lowest level since records began in 1855.

In March this year, a report from the independent Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population, set up by the Scottish Government, warned UK Government immigration plans could reduce migration by up to 50 per cent in Scotland.