How migration is vital for Scotland’s future
The Scottish Government has published its sixth paper in the Building a New Scotland series, outlining its plans for a migration policy that would suit Scotland’s needs and values after independence. The paper argues that migration is the “sole driver of population growth” in Scotland, and that more migrants are needed to address the challenges of an ageing population, a declining birth rate, and a skills gap. The paper also highlights the positive economic and cultural impacts of migration, and the public support for a more welcoming approach.
What are the key differences from the UK’s policy?
The paper contrasts Scotland’s vision with the UK’s “hostile” migration policy, which it says ignores Scotland’s interests and makes the situation worse. The paper criticises the UK’s high fees, income thresholds, and complex rules that deter migrants from coming or staying in Scotland. The paper also condemns the UK’s lack of safe and legal routes for asylum seekers, and its use of detention and deportation as default measures.
What are the main proposals for an independent Scotland?
The paper sets out a number of visa routes that an independent Scotland would create to attract and retain migrants. These include:
- A “Live in Scotland” route, which would allow people to live and work in Scotland without employer sponsorship, based on criteria such as age, education, skills, language, and earning potential.
- A “Scottish Connections” route, which would allow people who have previously lived, studied, or worked in Scotland, or who have an ancestral connection, to apply for residency.
- A “Family” route, which would remove the minimum income requirement and make it easier for people to join their relatives in Scotland.
- An “Employer” route, which would simplify the process for employers to sponsor workers, and would include a seasonal worker scheme to support sectors such as agriculture and tourism.
- A “Visitor” route, which would allow people to stay in Scotland for up to six months, and would initially follow the same rules as the UK on visa requirements for different nationalities.
How would Scotland treat asylum seekers and refugees?
The paper also outlines a more humane and compassionate approach to asylum and refugee policy, which would respect the rights and dignity of those seeking protection. The paper proposes:
- Creating more safe and legal routes for asylum seekers to reach Scotland, such as humanitarian visas, family reunification, and community sponsorship.
- Establishing a Scottish Asylum and Refugee Resettlement Agency (SARRA), which would be responsible for assessing asylum claims and providing support and integration services.
- Ending the use of detention as a default measure, and only using it for a limited period before removal, if necessary.
- Providing legal protections and pathways to citizenship for asylum seekers and refugees, and learning from the lessons of the Windrush scandal.
How would Scotland rejoin the EU and the Common Travel Area?
The paper reaffirms Scotland’s ambition to rejoin the EU and restore freedom of movement for its citizens and residents. The paper says that Scotland would seek to negotiate its membership terms as soon as possible after independence, and would aim to align its migration policy with the EU’s standards and principles. The paper also says that Scotland would seek to maintain the Common Travel Area (CTA) with the UK and Ireland, which allows free movement of people within the British Isles, and would cooperate with its neighbours on security and border management.
What will happen next?
The paper concludes by saying that independence is the only way for Scotland to have a migration policy that reflects its needs and values, and that Westminster is unlikely to change its course or grant more powers to Scotland. The paper says that Scotland has a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to choose its own future, and invites the people of Scotland to join the conversation and make their voices heard.