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Politics and International Relations (PIR): News


Scottish Immigration Policy After Brexit

PIR researchers have produced a major report on options for the Scottish immigration policy of the future.

*UPDATE* The Herald discusses the report, which is now available here.

Researchers from Politics and International Relations at the University of Edinburgh have outlined a series of possible options for Scotland to develop an approach to immigration that is different from the rest of the UK.

The report - Scottish and UK Immigration Policy after Brexit - provides a rigorous tool for appraising different immigration policies. These 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 was co-authored by Professor Christina Boswell, Dr. Sarah Kyambi, and Saskia Smellie (a PhD student in PIR).

Political leaders in Scotland have regularly argued for a different system, reflecting the country’s distinct demographic and labour market challenges compared to the rest of the UK.

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 would be the most difficult to sell politically. The Australian/Canadian systems offers a flexible tool for selecting immigrants, and fosters integration through allowing generous access to permanent residence. While such a scheme would be practically viable, the experts say, 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, the experts say there is a need to design systems that encourage the workers that Scotland needs to settle and integrate in Scotland.