Today we launched a report which looks at the options for a ‘differentiated’ approach to immigration policy in Scotland.
The report provides a rigorous tool for appraising a range of approaches, drawing on experiences from across Europe, Canada and Australasia. The different options are rated on their potential to address Scottish immigration needs and also their practical and political viability for the UK as a whole.
The report says that the schemes best suited to address Scotland’s economic and demographic needs – such as the points-based system used in Australia and Canada – are potentially the most difficult to sell politically. The Australian/Canadian systems offer a flexible tool for selecting immigrants, and foster integration through allowing generous access to permanent residence.
While such a scheme would be practically viable for Scotland, it would require a substantial shift in public perceptions and in the position of the current UK Government, which favours reducing immigration.
More politically feasible options include making smaller adjustments to the current immigration system to meet skills and labour shortages. Options include adjusting current Tier 2 schemes to allow lower skills or salary thresholds for Scottish employers, or reintroducing a post-study work scheme.
The report warns against regulating lower-skilled immigration through temporary and seasonal schemes that offer limited rights and protection for workers. It is in lower-skilled jobs ¬ the part of the economy that employs most EEA nationals – where labour gaps are most likely to appear post-Brexit.
Instead, there is a need to design systems that encourage the workers that Scotland needs to settle and integrate in Scotland.
The report was co-authored with Sarah Kyambi and Saskia Smellie, colleagues at the University of Edinburgh. You can read the full report here.
You can also read coverage of the report in the Herald.