The Need for a Scottish Visa

A report by Kenneth Gibson, MSP 

The SNP Government has unveiled proposals for a new Scottish Visa to address depopulation and the growing risk of a skills gap.

The proposals have been designed to work under devolution but the principles and practical measures proposed could be adapted for an independent Scotland.

Under the current constitutional arrangements, these plans would see responsibility for immigration policy split with the UK Government.

Migrants wanting to live in Scotland could choose to apply for a Scottish Visa, or one of the existing immigration routes offered by the UK Government. Residence in Scotland and maintaining a Scottish tax code would be a requirement.

These proposals are both important and urgent. In contrast to the rest of the UK, all of Scotland’s population growth for the next 25 years is projected to come from migration, and yet new UK Government immigration controls and the end of free movement following Brexit are expected to exacerbate skills gaps and labour shortages, especially in rural and island communities.

Migration to Scotland supports economic growth, the delivery of public services and helps to sustain communities, impacted by long-term demographic decline.

This is an issue that is crucial for our future. Such a policy already works well in the provinces of Canada, so we have an existing model to learn from.

The SNP Government doesn’t currently have the powers needed to deliver tailored immigration policies for Scotland. Nevertheless, such proposals have been welcomed across the board by business organisations, universities and industry bodies, with even former Tory MP Stephen Kerr supporting them. The SNP Government set out the practical and doable visa proposals in good faith, supported in many aspects by the conclusions of the Migration Advisory Committee.

However the UK Tory Government dismissed them in record time, without giving them even due consideration. This ill-informed and regrettable knee-jerk response simply demonstrates how out of touch the UK Government is with the needs of Scotland.

The UK Government’s response is troubling. If it cannot engage on something as reasonable as a flexible system that has support from many different organisations and industries in Scotland, it is clear they will never be responsive to our country’s needs.