Scottish government minister criticises UK immigration policy

Humza Yousaf, the Scottish government's external affairs minister, has criticised the UK government for its immigration policy which, he says, is damaging the Scottish economy. Mr Yousaf said that Scottish society opposed UK immigration policy. He said 'There's no doubt that the UK government's restrictive immigration policies are damaging Scotland's economy….Immigration is one of the only policy issues that I can think of that unites Scottish business, the trade unions, politicians, the universities because they're all feeling the impact of restrictive immigration policies'.

Mr Yousaf, who is the son of immigrants, having a mother from Kenya and Pakistani father, said that the government's policy was designed to appeal to English voters and was deterring skilled immigrants, who are vital for the Scottish economy, from coming to Scotland. He said that Scotland should be able to set its own immigration agenda as an independent country.

At present, Scotland is part of the UK. In 1999, the Labour UK government of Tony Blair devolved some powers to a new Scottish parliament but many matters, such as immigration policy, are still decided by Westminster.

UK government committed to reducing net UK immigration

In January 2010, the then leader of the UK's Opposition Conservative Party, David Cameron, promised to cut UK immigration to below 100,000 per year by 2015 if he became prime minister at the 2010 general election. He made this promise at a time when the issue of immigration was of great concern to the public, according to opinion polls, and when the net annual immigration figure (the difference between the number of people immigrating and the number leaving the country) was about 260,000.

Some estimates suggest that 2m immigrants settled in the UK between 2000 and 2010. Since 2010, the UK government has cut the net immigration figure to about 150,000 per year. However, immigrants have not settled evenly over the UK. The vast majority live in London and the south east of England. Scotland has attracted comparatively few immigrants. In fact, the population of Scotland is actually shrinking due to emigration as Scottish nationals are leaving to live in England and elsewhere. This is why, Mr Yousaf says, Scotland needs its own policy.

The Scottish National Party government of which Mr Yousaf is a member is dedicated to achieving full independence from the UK and so it is keen to point out any policy area where government policy created in Westminster is adversely affecting people in Scotland. Mr Yousaf said that Scotland must achieve independence so that it can create an immigration policy which is tailored to Scottish needs.

Scottish Conservative says Scotland needs immigrants

A Conservative member of the Scottish parliament, Alex Johnstone, admitted that Scotland needs immigrants and that the public's attitude to immigration and immigrants in Scotland was less hostile than in England. However, he said that this could change if immigration were not properly regulated so the UK government's policy was the right one for Scotland.

He told BBC TV show The Sunday Politics on 19th May 2013 that 'tight regulation of immigration is important but we must make sure we're able to bring in the people we need to satisfy the demands of business.'

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