UK Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas and the Scottish Government’s External Affairs Minister Michael Russell met in London this week to discuss how the points-based immigration system can be used to support Scotland’s population growth target, ‘egov monitor’ reports.
The meeting was organised as a result of a discussion at the May meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council (Domestic).
Scottish Ministers have consistently stated the case for Scotland-specific flexibilities which recognise Scotland’s unique demographic challenge.
Mr Russell said:
“I raised recent cases which have worked against Scottish interests and the long-running sore that is the unacceptable detention of children at Dungavel.
“However, on the broader policy issues we did make good progress. For example, we added that a Tier 5 Government authorised ‘Exchange’ scheme should be established for Scotland.
“The UK Border Agency’s website should help to promote Scotland as a place to work, live and study – this is typically a potential migrant’s first interaction with the UK immigration system.”
Mr Russell wants the UK Border Agency and Scottish Government to work together to encourage Scottish businesses to make representations to the Migration Advisory Committee on where they are experiencing skills shortages from within the domestic workforce.
“We also agreed that the UK Government would discuss with the Migration Advisory Committee issues in the points-based system including the difficulties caused by the inclusion of London weighting in salaries which affect points under Tiers 1 and 2.
“I also raised this issue with the Chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, Professor David Metcalf, when I met him today.
“The Scottish Government’s position is clear. Scotland has an ageing population and an increasing dependency ratio. We need the flexibility within the system to attract more people of working age to contribute to our economy, fill skills gaps and help us prosper over the longer term.
“There is of course precedent for such flexibilities. The hugely successful Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme allowed international students the opportunity to remain in Scotland to work for up to two years following graduation from a Scottish university or college. Over 8,400 graduates benefited from the scheme and such was its success in attracting the brightest and best students from around the world, that it was replicated across the rest of the UK.
“Today’s discussion was useful and I hope it can be built upon.”
Immigration Matters Comment
Like many other parts of the UK, Scotland needs immigration to provide more people to keep the local economy moving and staff services.
Last month Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland criticised United Kingdom immigration laws which he said do not reflect the “values” of Scotland.
During an address to more than 300 delegates from ethnic minority organisations, he described his anger at “crazy” decisions made in Westminster.
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