Westminster has rejected a proposal for a separate Scottish visa system, which was put forward by Holyrood on Wednesday 29th January.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for Immigration powers to be at least partly controlled by the Scottish government in order to boost migration to Scotland.
Currently, these powers are reserved to Westminster.
The proposal involved a separate visa for Scotland that migrants could choose.
MSPs at Holyrood Parliament would decide the criteria. The Scottish government would then assess the applications; finally, the UK government would conduct security checks.
There is currently concern that in the next 25 years, deaths could outweigh births in Scotland, with its small population of around 5.5 million.
Ms Sturgeon stated: “Migration is an issue which is crucial for our future, but the Scottish government doesn’t currently have the powers needed to deliver tailored immigration policies for Scotland.
“Devolving immigration powers by introducing a Scottish visa would allow Scotland to attract and retain people with the skills and attributes we need for our communities and economy to flourish.”
However, the UK government’s reply was a firm rejection.
In an official statement, a spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Immigration will remain a reserved matter. The UK Government will introduce a points-based immigration system that works in the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland.
“We want to understand the specific needs of the whole of the UK, which is why we have engaged extensively with stakeholders across the UK, including the Scottish Government.”
There were four approaches that the First Minister laid out during a speech made in Edinburgh.
The first was for the Conservative government to create a new, separate route for people wanting to come to Scotland, meaning the Home Office would set the rules themselves.
The second model was be the SNP government proposing a separate system, which the UK government would set up.
The final two options involved making a new visa system a shared power between Westminster and Holyrood.
Despite Ms Sturgeon stating that the end of freedom of movement will be “uniquely harmful for Scotland,” and adding that “a UK-wide approach to immigration simply hasn’t worked in Scotland’s favour for some time now,” the Migration Advisory Committee appeared to view the situation differently.
They responded that the country’s needs were not “sufficiently different” from the rest of the UK to justify a “very different” system.
It cited the north of England as an example which, according to the committee, faces issues not dissimilar to Scotland.
Other political parties had mixed responses.
The Liberal Democrats had a firm response, stating that “changing the name of a visa and removing a cap that’s never been hit is not a serious plan”.
Scottish Labour were more welcoming in their response, saying they “support exploring a degree of flexibility within an overarching UK immigration system”.
The UK government proposes radical change to the immigration system post-Brexit, including a points-based system and a fast-track scheme for scientists, researchers and mathematicians.
People working in these areas would be prioritised under a new “global talent system”.
The points-based system take is to take effect in January of next year, while the new scheme will start much earlier on the 20th February.
Freedom of movement is set to end on December 31st of this year. The First Minister believes this is a loss for Scotland.
“It’s likely to weaken our economy, damage the delivery of our public services and make some of our communities less sustainable.”
Nonetheless, Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains optimistic about the new system, stating that as Britain leaves the EU, he wants to “send a message that the UK is open to the most talented minds in the world, and stand ready to support them to turn their ideas into reality.”
Image: pschemp via Wikipedia