The SNP and Immigration – An open door to England?

April 02, 2015

Labour concessions to the SNP on immigration would destroy any effective immigration control for England - that is the conclusion of a Migration Watch UK report released today. With opinion polls pointing to a landslide victory for the SNP in Scotland but a hung Parliament nationally, the SNP’s leaders are already boasting about the concessions they plan to extract from a minority Labour government. One of their long standing desires is a more open immigration system for Scotland and they may very well seek to use a hung Parliament to bring this about. They have already made it clear that they would like to see current rules relaxed across every major category of migration - work, study, family and asylum - despite polls showing that 64% of Scots want immigration reduced and only 5% want it increased.

The fundamental weakness of these proposals is that many migrants who obtain entry to Scotland are very likely to move on South. As it is, the overwhelming majority of migrants (90%) have chosen to live in England. Their reasons include well established migrant populations, the economic draw of higher wages (especially in London and the South East), together with a better climate. Other countries, like Canada, have already found that regional immigration systems do not work as migrants do not stay in the region for which their visas were granted.

The SNP has also repeatedly called for a more relaxed approached to asylum. The Swedish precedent is instructive. They have for a long time had a more “liberal” approach, the effect of which has been to attract very large numbers of applicants. Last year they received 80,000 asylum applications in a country with a population less than twice that of Scotland. The Scots could be looking at 40,000 asylum seekers a year - a more than 20 fold increase in numbers.

Commenting, Lord Green of Deddington said:

“One of Labour’s five pledges is to “control immigration”. That would be destroyed at a stroke if Labour did a deal with the SNP on immigration. So long as we are one country there can be only one immigration regime. An attempt at a looser regime in Scotland would quickly run out of control to the serious detriment of England”

Read the full briefing paper here

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