'One size fits all' wrong policy for UK migration

June 27, 2005

Demands for Scotland to have a separate immigration policy from the rest of the UK have been described as ‘completely unjustified by the facts and likely to be harmful to England‘ in a new report out today.
(Read report)

The report, from think tank Migrationwatch, says that claims that Scotland has a ‘population crisis’ have been very greatly exaggerated and that the solutions put forward are more likely to exacerbate the situation south of the border than alleviate the problem of the age structure in Scotland.

‘It is true that prior to 2000 there was usually a net movement of people each year from Scotland to the rest of the UK and until 2003-4 there was also net international emigration,’ said Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch. ‘Coupled with a low birth rate this gave rise to concerns about the decline and ageing of the Scottish population. The Scottish Executive recommended an immigration policy geared specifically to Scotland’s needs as a solution to this problem.’

But, said Sir Andrew, migration has turned round since 2001. There has been an increasing net movement from the rest of the UK to Scotland and internationally. The government’s projections now show that, if these trends continue, there will be a small rise in the Scottish population over the next two decades.

Said Sir Andrew: ‘The real demographic challenge is population ageing - a problem common to all of the UK, which cannot be addressed effectively by immigration for the simple reason that migrants also age. Increasing and unsustainable levels of migration would be required to maintain the ratio of the population of working age to those of pension age.’ As the House of Lords Economic Committee put it in November 2003, “…it is neither appropriate nor feasible to attempt to counter the trend towards a more aged society in the UK through a manipulation of immigration policy.”

The report also points out that Scottish employers are already free to import skilled workers provided that there is no EU worker available. Removing this resident worker test would simply provide another ‘back door’ into Britain.

‘England already faces severe challenges arising from its high population density which is six times that of Scotland. It also faces a rapid increase in its population of about six million in the next three decades, caused mainly by high levels of immigration. A slackening of immigration requirements for Scottish employers would simply exacerbate this problem further,’ he said.

‘Our contention, therefore, is that proposals for a separate Scottish immigration scheme are completely unjustified by the facts. Such a scheme would merely exacerbate the situation in the rest of the UK because applicants granted a work permit on the basis of a shortage in Scotland would, in practice be able to move South. It is encouraging that a majority of Scots [1] disagree with the proposals’ he said.

[1] Yougov Poll 21 Feb 2005

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