A cross-party group of MPs has called on the government to consider handing over greater immigration powers to Scotland. The call for immigration devolution came from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Integration, which is led by labour MP Chuka Umunna. In a report, the group called for Scotland to be given greater power over local immigration.
The APPG called for a commission to be set up to investigate how such an arrangement could be reached. The APPG also highlighted that the present system has led to “friction” between the UK and Scottish government, but that a new system wouldn’t be without its challenges.
It was noted that the current points-based system is “generally unresponsive to demographic, economic, and cultural differences between our constituent nations and regions”. At the moment, immigration policy is decided by Westminster and the only control the Scottish government has is through the Shortage Occupations List. Scottish companies are able to advertise roles from the Shortage Occupations list to non-EU nationals before advertising them in Scotland.
By handing over greater immigration power to Scotland, the report says that the UK Government would be able to encourage immigrants to settle in places with lower levels of immigration. This is also a key demand that Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made in the wake of the Brexit vote.
The report notes that Scotland has been keen to increase immigration in order to grow its labour force, but these aims are not in line with Home Office’s commitment to cutting immigration. By giving Scotland greater power over local immigration numbers, it is hoped that this could create a system similar to the Canadian immigration system.
In Canada, there is a central route to immigration, but each province also has its own quotas and requirements. Immigrants are required to stay in the region they applied to work in and can only move to another region when they have achieved Canadian citizenship. This allows each region to attract the right people to meet their skills and labour needs without impacting local labour.