College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Immigration options for Scotland explored

Experts have outlined a series of possible options for Scotland to develop an approach to immigration that is different from the rest of the UK.

A new 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 offer a flexible tool for selecting immigrants, and foster integration through allowing generous access to permanent residence.

Read the Scottish and UK Immigration Policy after Brexit full report (PDF document)

Feasible options

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.

Different policies

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 - 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.

A warning

It also 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.