Labour explores Canadian model
Dugdale: ‘put migration under local control’
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale says immigration decisions could be taken at a more local level.
Regions of the United Kingdom should be given the opportunity, post-Brexit, to design an incomers policy that meets their particular needs.
This would ensure regions and nations could attract highly-skilled labour from EU and non-EU countries according to local demand.
Ms Dugdale, speaking to the David Hume Institute in Edinburgh tonight, said Scottish Labour will explore a Canadian-style system, where Quebec has a special agreement with the Government of Canada on immigration.
In her speech, Ms Dugdale also said the SNP and the Tories are “more interested in re-opening constitutional divisions than seeking unity, which is a recipe for a cold war in Scottish politics’.”
She said Nicola Sturgeon’s latest position on a second independence referendum means her approach could leave Scotland “outside of the EU and outside of the UK”.
She said: “Both the SNP and the Scottish Conservatives appear, since the Brexit vote, to be casting about for an expedient political position rather than working in the national interest.”
On immigration she said: “The FreshTalent initiative – which was developed by the last Labour-led Scottish Executive – set the precedent that there can be different immigration arrangements for Scotland. It is disappointing that there hasn’t been the political will to make anything similar happen recently.
“This proposal is attractive and one that Scottish Labour will look at in more detail in the coming months, including with colleagues from Canada and Quebec, and we will also look in detail at the recommendations of the APPG [All-Party Parliamentary Group] on Social Integration.”
European Movement in Scotland report
Her comments follows publication of a report saying Scotland will end up economically worse off should European Union nationals not be able to come and work freely in Scotland through freedom of movement.
The European Movement in Scotland (EMiS), compiled by Colin Imrie, one of Scotland’s leading authorities on European policy, notes that freedom of movement has played an especially important role in Scotland in the 21st century.
It has enabled the economy to grow faster than the historic trend. EMiS is Scotland’s oldest dedicated pro-European campaigning organisation.
It notes concerns that if restrictions are placed in future on freedom of movement of EU citizens this could impact on key sectors in the Scottish economy, reduce population growth and its associated impacts on economic growth, and have a major negative impact on the capacity of the Scottish Government to increase tax take under its new tax powers.
There are an estimated 181,000 EU nationals in Scotland, the majority (119,000 or 66%) are from EU accession nations and half of the net increase in the Scottish population between 2000 and 2015 has come from people born in EU countries.
The report urges that the Scottish Government be granted more authority over immigration by Westminster, and the UK argue for this special treatment for Scotland to meet its particular economic needs in the Brexit negotiations.
This would allow EU nationals to come and work freely in Scotland, and Scots could avail themselves of the benefits of working across the entire European Economic Area, independent of the situation for the rest of the UK.
Mr Imrie said: “Freedom of movement is an integral part of the single market because it has a strong economic purpose.
“We are lucky that Scottish political leaders from both left and right have been less emotive on the issue of freedom of movement in England so we are able to conduct a more mature conversation about immigration and this fundamental freedom.
“The Scottish Government must be granted more authority over immigration by Westminster, and the UK needs to argue for this special treatment for Scotland to meet its particular economic needs in the Brexit negotiations.”
“Without freedom of movement we will see a reduction in tax revenues which will affect public services, while overall we face the prospect of the very welcome recent increase in the Scottish population going into reverse without the injection of new working-age people into the country as the population ages.”