Skip to main content

“Migration: Helping Scotland Prosper”

Volume 671: debated on Monday 10 February 2020

6. If she will hold discussions with the Scottish Government on their report “Migration: Helping Scotland Prosper”, published on 27 January 2020. (900678)

Immigration is and will remain a reserved matter. This Government will introduce a points-based immigration system that works in the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland. Applying different immigration rules to different parts of the UK would significantly complicate the immigration system.

The Australian Immigration Minister stated last November that regional visas

“can play an important role in helping to address regional skills gaps and grow local economies.”

As migration is the only reason Scotland’s population continues to grow, does the Minister agree that Scotland would benefit from this Australian approach to immigration, rather than the one-size-fits-all one of this UK Government?

We have asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee on several occasions to look at the case for applying different immigration arrangements to different areas of the UK. It has consistently recommended against this, and I think Members in this House will realise why it would make no sense, for example, for a plumber from Gretna to be unable to take on jobs in Carlisle.

New Zealand, Switzerland and Canada are just some of the other countries that, like Australia, operate a tailored regional immigration system without any need for internal borders, so what possible rationale is there for claiming, as the Prime Minister did last week, that to operate a Scottish visa would require a hard border between Scotland and England?

Again, we have made it very clear: the independent Migration Advisory Committee has set out in its report why it does not recommend this type of approach. Ultimately, we do not want to see borders at Berwick just to satisfy a separatist obsession. Our goal would be to have a system that works and drives success in Scotland, and that means being part of a wider, stronger United Kingdom.

I think the only people satisfying a separatist obsession at the moment are those on the Conservative Benches with their hard Brexit.

Let us try again on this mythical hard border, shall we? The United Kingdom has an open land border and shares a common travel area with the Republic of Ireland, which operates an entirely distinct and independent system. That does not necessitate a hard border, so why should a modest Scottish visa mean a hard border between England and Scotland? Let us have an answer to the question for a change.

Let us be very clear: the Migration Advisory Committee has advised against such a system. It would create complexity, with businesses having to work out which staff were on one visa and which were on another. Ultimately, we will be guided by independent advice, but I will be absolutely clear: this Government will create a migration system that works for Scotland and drives success in Scotland, but will not drive separation for Scotland.

Can the Minister confirm that this Government will indeed design and implement a new, fit-for-purpose global immigration system that works for all regions and nations of our United Kingdom, and that, of course, Members on the SNP Benches have as much right as any Member in this place to work with the Government to help to achieve that?

Absolutely, and the suggestion from the Scottish Government that it would be implemented via the Scottish tax code is rather defeated by the fact that Scottish Members of Parliament are on the Scottish tax code but work across our United Kingdom, and rightly so. So, yes, we will work with interest groups across Scotland to make sure this system works for Scotland as part of our United Kingdom, on a points-based basis. Again, we will focus on what works and what is successful, not on what pleases the separatist grievance agenda.