UK to start regional skills lists for skilled immigration

Under new plans agreed by the Home Office, every region in the UK will be able to publish a list of skills in short supply and it is up to the governing body in each region to decide on the contents of that list.

For example, the Scottish government will be able to submit a list of skills in short supply in Scotland, and immigrants with those skills will be allowed into the UK and directed to Scotland to work.

JACK McConnell, the First Minister of Scotland, hopes the new plans will attract more migrants to Scotland while still allowing the government to impose a single, UK-wide policy. McConnell has been pushing for some time for special immigration allowances in an attempt to halt the decline in Scotland's population.

There had been speculation that the Home Office might agree to set up a geography-based points system, giving more points to migrants who offer to work north of the Border. But some in the Home Office were reluctant to break up the single UK immigration system just to help Scotland.

The compromise deal will allow the Scottish Executive to attract more migrants than the rest of the UK, but on the basis of skills, not geography. Migrants will be able to come to Britain if they possess skills that are in demand in any particular part of the UK, including Scotland.

There will be nothing to stop the Executive publishing a large list, highlighting hundreds of different skill shortages, far more than the number put forward by the Westminster government for England, or by the Welsh Executive for Wales.

If, for example, Scotland decides it needs bus drivers but England does not, immigrant bus drivers will be allowed into the UK and directed to Scotland to work.

However, there will be nothing to keep them in Scotland and nothing to stop them heading for London at the first opportunity.