The Daily Mail reports that immigrants who want a British passport will have a better chance if they agree to move to Scotland under what they describe as an ‘absurd’ new Home Office plan.
Public concerns about a “population explosion” over the next 20 years have forced the Government to propose a points-based system for those seeking citizenship.
The population of 61million is expected to hit 70million by 2029 and ministers have made it harder for migrants on work permits to stay permanently in the Borders Citizenship Act 2009, which received the Royal Assent on 21 July.
But yesterday, the Scottish Secretary revealed that if immigrants were willing to live in under-populated parts of Britain, they would find it easier to pass the test.
Jim Murphy said:
‘Having lived and worked in Scotland is proposed as one way to earn points.’
The move, contained in a draft consultation to be released in the next few weeks, means prospective British citizens already settled in Britain may flock north of the border, where the population is falling, to ensure they have enough points to be successful.
Critics point out it will be extremely difficult to check that an applicant is living and working in Scotland and whether they will stay there.
Also, once a passport application is approved, the Government has no control over the person’s movements as there are obviously no border controls, unless Scot Gordon Brown is proposing to rebuild the Roman ‘Hadrian’s Wall’.
Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green said:
“This is completely absurd.”
Campaigners said it could damage a sound Home Office policy that is designed to make it tougher for migrants to settle in Britain. At present, there is a firm link between a migrant obtaining a visa to work here, and going on to receive a British passport.
Under these rules, the number of British passports given to migrants is set to hit a record of almost 220,000 this year.
During the first three months of 2009, 54,615 citizenship applications were issued by the Home Office to qualifying migrants – up 57 per cent on the same period a year earlier.
Last year, the number of passports granted was 129,310, and when Labour came to power in 1997, just 37,010 people were given citizenship.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the campaign group Migrationwatch UK, said:
“It is an excellent scheme to split economic migration from the right to settle, but it makes no sense to treat Scotland differently.
“A condition requiring residency in Scotland is completely unenforceable. ‘England receives over 90 per cent of immigration, and faces 95 per cent of the extra 10million population now projected for the next 20 years.
We cannot allow the tail to wag the dog on a matter that is so important to the future of our society.”
A Home Office spokesman said:
“The points system has already proved to be a powerful tool for controlling migration, which is why we are now looking at applying its principles to the path to citizenship.
“The measures require migrants to earn citizenship.
“This is the first step towards breaking the automatic link between temporary residence and permanent settlement.
“But, we want to look at raising the bar even more.”
Immigration Matters Comment
Despite the negative press, the idea of allowing immigration to counter emigration from areas of the UK seems to make sense. Similar schemes are used to attract people to live in less popular parts of Canada and Australia.
Scotland (and parts of the North of England and Wales) has a falling population, but has yet to come up with any other way of increasing the number of people willing to settle there.
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