Scottish independence could open backdoor for immigration to UK
(29 August 2014)
New research at Durham University reveals that if Scotland votes for independence it risks opening a backdoor for immigrants traveling to the UK. This is because the current Scottish Government plans to make it easier for immigrants to work and study if Scotland becomes independent without creating border controls. This exposes the rest of the UK to immigrants that might otherwise not be permitted entry.
Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, has said an independent Scotland would aim to increase net migration to 24,000 each year—an annual rise of 2,000 on average Scottish net migration between 2001 and 2011. The policy aims to expand Scotland’s workforce to support financing pensions. A poll by YouGov found a majority of 58% living in Scotland backed reducing immigration. This suggests an independent Scotland would act contrary to public opinion on border control.
Research by Professor Thom Brooks at Durham University suggests an independent Scotland would remove existing entry barriers that might allow migration that might be blocked under current rules. He says:
“An independent Scotland would plan to retain a points-based migration policy targeting particular Scottish needs, but would end requirements that non-EU citizens pass a citizenship test and there are no clear commitment to retaining tests that demand English language skills.”
This research suggests that an independent Scotland could open a backdoor for migration to the UK without border controls. Brooks says:
“If an independent Scotland would accept migrants that would be blocked to the UK under current rules, this could expose the UK to migrants it tries to exclude because of the different immigration rules in place for each country.”
The Scottish Government argues “one of the major gains from independence…will be responsibility for our own immigration policy”. It proposes to only check the visa status of migrants entering ports and airports or in “cases involving criminality” because it seeks to be within a Common Travel Area with the UK.
Professor Brooks says:
“The Common Travel Area is not a free movement zone. There can be checks to ensure individuals hold valid visas and their leave is not overstayed. Area members have discussed changing its terms for some time and Scotland’s independence would provide an ideal opportunity, but this is unlikely to result in fewer restrictions in the current political climate”.